Sense and Sensibility – Play Review
Musical version of Jane Austin’s Sense and Sensibility, playing at Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, through Theatreworks Silicon Valley is a treat for the senses and is sensible for the minds. Incredible lyrics by Paul Gordon, make it a must see musical treasure and is directed by brilliant Robert Kelley. Incredible scenic design by Joe Ragey and costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt place the formidable cast right in the 18th century England where properties were passed to male heirs, and young women were left to find a suitable match or navigate through life in poverty or worse, spinsterhood, in a society where premium is placed on rank and status.
Sisters Marianne Dashwood (Antoinette Comer) and Elinor Dashwood (Sharon Rietkerk) find themselves at such a pivotal juncture, upon the passing away of their father. Marianne Dashwood is passionate and spontaneous, quick to love and hasty in her laments; she loves change of seasons, random walks and finds joy in nature and poetry in dead leaves; she embraces zest for life and romantic idealism, and loves wholeheartedly, laughs uproariously, and weeps dramatically. Women like her are often the force behind much needed changes in a society. When the property is passed to her brother, she asks her sister, “why? Is it because he is a dutiful son or because he is deserving? For, he is neither”.
Marianne’s sister Elinor Dashwood is subdued in her emotions, slow and thoughtful in expressing her feelings, polite and considerate in her commentary, rational and restrained in her thinking; she speaks of decorum and propriety; and she always tries to see things from others’ perspective, be sensitive to their feelings and say the right things, even when she suffers great hardship in doing so. Women like her, are often the ones who help maintain order in society and prevent chaos not only through their own patience and kindness but also with their counsel to others, as her sister Marianne acknowledges, “my sister hopes to save me from my excesses”.
While either disposition in excess may not serve a person well, it seems Austen clearly favors domination of sense over sensibility. As Elinor says to her sister Marianne, “it is not everyone who has your passion for dead leaves”. From good natured, shy Edward Ferrars (Darrell Morris Jr.) to dashing and temperamental John Willoughby (Hunter Ryan Herdlicka) to dutiful husband, John Dashwood (Nick Nakashima), they all play their roles to perfection. With prevailing sense of the time, Austen navigates her heroines through the plot twists and rewards them with a suitable match, at the end of her novels, as the happy audience departs with a smile.
This is a not-to-miss play of this theater season and a treat to be savored, after the lockdowns of the pandemic. Tickets are available at www.theatreworks.org .