Review of Sense and Sensibility at the Guthrie Theater
Quote of the Day: The ongoing productions of Sense and Sensibility around the country, I think, are a testimony to the fact that people are hungry for women’s perspectives – that these stories are, in fact, universal. – Kate Hamill, playwright who adapted Jane Austen’s classic novel Sense and Sensibility for the stage. She’s not your stereotypical playwright. She’s young. She’s female, and she’s got moxie, the same as the leading ladies in this remarkable stage adaption, playing now through October 29, 2016, at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN.
This play is directed by another notable female in the Theater Arts, Sarah Rasmussen, who is also the Artistic Director at the Jungle Theater. She is instrumental in giving Twin Cities Theater patrons diverse faces, places, and voices. She writes, “Playwright Kate Hamill has captured the subversive wit and sincere heart of Austen, balancing the high-stakes financial plight of the Dashwood sisters against the absurdity of the society that surrounds them.” The crisp wit and colorful characters of this play are what connects us and drives the story home. We, as a society, then and now, can be ridiculous in our norms and expectations, and cruel in our judgement and treatment of each other. The gift of the sisterhood, friends and family, is having someone hold you up through those trials.
Sense and Sensibility is a lovely, delightful play about sister love. While it is a love story filled with old-fashioned ideals that women are nobody until they’re married, and money is the driving force behind each coupling, we see the Dashwood women being more to each other than just cheerleaders in the race towards matrimony. While Elinor (stunningly played by Jolly Abraham) is the sensible one, sticking closely to behaviors and expectations that her culture dictates, her dear sister Marianne (Alejandra Escalante)
feels all her emotions deeply, physically, and without apology. “Leave me, hate me, forget me. But do not ask me not to feel,” Marianne cries.
While part of me wanted to walk on stage, give her a good shake and say, “Come on, girl. You’re more than some man’s other half,” the other part knows, and has watched, women crumble when their hearts get broken. And, in the end, despite Elinor’s stoic sensibilities, she shows her sister that she, too, has been deeply wounded. What we witness is the strength of women, their deep bond as sisters, and the power they create when they are there for each other.
As anyone can learn, male or female, you are more than the additions and subtractions of your relationships. You are whole on your own. You have strength to persevere despite societies pressures and cruelties. Even as people trick you and lie about you and use you terribly, you can rise above the muck and know that you are beautifully and wonderfully made, with a purpose.
The staging of this show is both simple in design and intricate in its detail. Lamps rising and falling, change in lighting, and a circulating set give you sense of place and movement. Music floats in and out to create mood and evoke emotion. I was especially delighted by the dining room scenes where all the actors face out and the “table” rotates so that all audience members see their actions and facial expressions. Young Margaret Dashwood has a sparkle that draws you in, and wonderful lines that only a little sister can pull off. The Gossips are represented by characters dressed in black, whispering, watching, judging, and at one point, circling poor distraught Marianne in a scene that fascinated the eye with the revolving stage, the storm sound effects, the lighting, and the real fear and confusion on Marianne’s face.
Some of my favorite Twin Cities actors are in this show, Sally Wingert (quirky Mrs. Jennings), Suzanne Warmanen (delightful Mrs. Dashwood), Kris L. Nelson (John Dashwood), Emily Gunyou Halaas (Lucy Steele), Robert Dorfman (Sir John Middleton), John Catron (Edward Ferrars), and more, with the addition of a few newcomers to the Guthrie stages. Visit the Guthrie Theater for more info on the show’s cast and crew and for tickets and show times.
Go. Create. Inspire!
Journaling Prompt: Have you ever been the target of cruelty, lies, and/or bullying? Has your heart ever been broken? Who was there for you?