Sense and Sensibility
By Kate Hamill
Based on a novel by Jane Austen
Directed by Marianne DiQuattro
Starring Anneliese Moon and Allison Furlong
Annie Russell Theater at Rollins College
Winter Park, FL
The pre-women lib world was so quaint. You either “Had” income or you starved, no woman dare not talk to man without an extensive escort, and a failed engagement often as not leads to poverty just as often a successful marriage leads to a life of abuse. Austen’s 1811 novel remains endlessly popular, and this is the second adaptation I’ve run across. This one is set on a fluid stage with every prop set on wheels or dropping from the fly loft. A cluster of Gossips watch every scene as overdressed voyeurs. Gossip was the coin of the financially endowed and the broke, but it really made a difference to the poor.
The Dashwood women are in a precarious position since daddy died leaving them in debt and on a slippery slope of social standing. His lands went to his first son John (Malakai Green) by marriage. John’s wife Fanny (Parker King) bitchily forbids him to help the other branch of the family leaving them only the option of selling themselves in marriage. The eldest daughters still have that bloom of youth with Marianne (Furlong) the more aggressive, more attractive girl. His sister Elinor (Moon) stays prim and proper, and everyone speaks in long, perfectly inflected sentences that are one step short of Shakespearian. Mother (Brianna Salvatori) makes endless pots of tea and the youngest Margaret (Robyn Perry) looks on longingly, hoping she, too can join in the desperate search for a suitable mate. The men are a motley lot as well. Edward Ferris (Josh Scott) only gets an inheritance if mom dies and he marries “suitably.” Colonel Brandon (Jonathan Garcia) is pleasant but old, and John Willoughby steals Marianne’s heart, but like all good Victorian leading men he’s sexy, broke and unstable.
The social details are more complicated than my last differential equations class, but there IS a happy ending to this relentless gossip fest. Scenic designer Molly J Finnegan-Pepe, (a truly wonderful name) keeps the endless scene changes flowing, and the supporting cast keeps them interesting. One character signs her roll; I like the idea, but it seems that would not really help the deaf follow this novel. Another issue is the lack of microphones; the lines were hard to hear in mid-audience, and there was often more ambient noise than necessary. But it’s a classic pre-Victorian novel and well-presented if you just let the hook-ups flow. The Gossips provide a clever commentary on the action: one indiscretion, one impolitic remark, and your social life may end. And this is 200 years before the internet; Facebook would have made their heads explode.
For more information on the Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins College, please visit http://www.rollins.edu/annierussell/current_season/index.html