The story of Sense & Sensibility (without spoilers)
Henry Dashwood was a wealthy landowner and master of Norland Park, a beautiful estate in Somerset. His first wife died, leaving him with a son, John. His second marriage produced three daughters, Elinor, Marianne and Margaret. Henry’s unexpected death after 20 years of marriage results in John Dashwood, now married with a child, inheriting Norland Park and the whole Dashwood fortune, through a legal contract known as an ‘entail‘. An entail means that the property can only pass from father to son, not to daughters. If no son were living, the nearest male relation would inherit. (This is the device that drives the plot of the popular BBC drama, Downton Abbey.)
Although the dying Mr. Dashwood pleads with his son to “provide for” his step mother and three half-sisters, John’s wife, Fanny, persuades him to offer them only some minor assistance in moving out of Norland. Meanwhile, Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars, visits and he and Elinor develop a warm friendship. When Fanny makes it clear that her mother, Mrs. Ferrars, will never allow Edward to marry a woman without dowry (money from her family which goes to the man she marries) and station, Mrs. Dashwood hastily removes herself and her daughters to a cottage in Devonshire, on the estate of her cousin, Sir John Middleton.
Sir John owns Barton Park and is happy to make Barton Cottage available to them at a very low rent. He is an outgoing and hospitable gentleman, married with children and with his mother-in-law (Mrs. Jennings) living at Barton as well. He and Mrs. Jennings are both boistrous in their sociability and insist on the Dashwoods spending as much time as possible visiting up at the house. They introduce the young Miss Dashwoods to Colonel Brandon, a friend of Sir John, in hopes that he will marry one of the girls. Brandon is instantly smitten with Marianne, but she deems him much too old to interest her.
While out walking with Margaret (the 12-year-old youngest Dashwood), Marianne sprains her ankle and is carried home in the rain by John Willoughby, a gentleman visiting his rich relation in the neighborhood. This romantic meeting convinces Marianne that she is in love. Willoughby and Marianne are inseparable and everyone assumes they will soon announce their engagement. But Willoughby suddenly leaves the county without explanation, throwing Marianne into a depression. Mrs. Jennings invites Elinor and Marianne to spend the winter in town (e.g., in London) with her, and Marianne is eager to accept, hoping to see Willoughby there.
Will Marianne ever see the man she loves again? What about Edward and Marianne? What dreadful secret is revealed by Lucy Steele, a young woman visiting from Plymouth? What crisis is brough to a head in the midst of a London ball?
Disinheritance and disownment—or the threat thereof—are major themes in this story of life in Regency England. At a time when well-bred men and women were expected to marry, and marry “well”—is there any hope for true love to triumph in the end? Come and find out!
all for One productions presents Kate Hamill’s new adaptation of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, November 10, 11 and 12, 17, 18, and 19, in the ArtsLab black box theater at 300 E. Main Street in Fort Wayne, IN. For tickets, go to tickets.artstix.org or call (260) 422-4226.