Next month, afO brings a beloved author’s work back to our stage. Jane Austen’s Emma was an audience favorite back in 2012. This time, we are presenting the area premiere of a lively new adaptation of Austen’s Sense & Sensibility. Just how lively, you ask?
This stage play moves at a gallop, with five catty Gossips leading the way, commenting on scenes, moving the other actors into place, and taking a number of key roles themselves. Privacy issues. Rampant, destructive gossip. Marriage for money. Scandal and destroyed reputations. This is the stuff of our current headlines, but Kate Hamill’s new staging demonstrates that these same concerns were very real, over two hundred years ago. The Regency wasn’t just a time of good manners, afternoon calls and endless cups of tea, and this highly-acclaimed adaptation is a far cry from gentle and leisurely conversation.
The story revolves around Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, the two eldest daughters of their father’s second marriage. (They are the “sense”–e.g., reason–and “sensibility”–e.g., passionate feeling, of the title.) His untimely death leaves them nearly penniless, as the estate goes to their elder half-brother, John, and his greedy wife, Fanny. Elinor, a practical and sensible young woman, works to keep her family respectable within their limited income, and quietly pines for Edward, a young man whose family expects him to marry “well”. Marianne, emotional and headstrong, falls in love with a handsome suitor, Willoughby, who may not be quite what he seems. Widowed Mrs. Dashwood takes her daughters (Elinor, Marianne and pre-teen Margaret) to live in a cottage on the estate of her cousin, Sir John Middleton. Sir John, along with his cold, shallow wife and her very outspoken and coarse mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings, form the basis of their new society. Neighbor Colonel Brandon silently admires Marianne, while visitors Lucy Steele and her sister, Anne, scheme and snicker.
Reason and emotion, wealth and poverty, rashness and caution: Sense & Sensibility is a study in contrasts which collide in the lives of one extended English family in 1805. Come and watch the sparks fly!