Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sense and Sensibility

Teddy Spencer as Edward Ferrars and Laura Klingaman as Elinor Dashwood
Whatever did young women do to find a man in the days before online dating sites?

Jane Austen seems to have had her own 18th-century, based on the plot of her most popular novels. Her “Sense and Sensibility” is currently having a delicious run at Sacramento Theatre Company, opening its 71st season.

Austen wrote this work in the form of letters, in 1795, at the age of 19, which may explain why she writes so knowledgeably about the thoughts and emotions of young women. It was not published until 1811, by which time Austen had changed the form to a narrative and the title to “Sense and Sensibility.” Its author was the anonymous “A Lady.”

The story follows the fortunes and misfortunes, the loves and heartbreaks of the plucky Dashwood sisters and the wicked and wacky characters who surround them.

Lenne Klingaman is simply outstanding as Elinor Dashwood, the “sensible” sister. She is noble to a fault in controlling her feelings for Edward Ferrars (Teddy Spencer), and later her disappointment in him. (Ferrars also takes a brief hilarious turn, as his brother Robert.)

Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer is sister Marianne, the drama queen who feels love is a waste until she is swept off her feet (literally) by roué John Willoughby (Kevin Gish), who will later break her heart.
This is a superior cast, but outstanding among them are Matt K. Miller, playing the kind of role he does so well as John Middleton, the affable squire who offers lodging to the Dashwood women after they are forced out of their own home. Miller plays Middleton with all the ebullience of Dickens’ Fezziwig.

Adding wonderful comic moments is Laura Kaya as Mrs. Jennings, mother-in-law to John, a substantial woman with a voice that shatters glass, an effervescent personality, and a big heart to boot.

Also in the comic department is Tara Henry as Mrs. Palmer, the ditzy wife of dour Mr. Palmer (Ron Dailey). Mrs. Palmer always finds something to laugh at and when she gets together with Mrs. Jennings, they are as funny as Lucy and Ethel off on some wacky caper.

David Campfield gives a subdued but solid performance as Colonel Brandon, hopelessly in love with Marianne, yet constantly rebuffed by her.

Special mention must be given to the marvelous sets by Renee DeGarmo, which, assisted by tech crew and cast members, roll in and out, twist and turn, and create several beautiful settings without a break in the action of the actors.

Jessica Minnihan’s costumes were beautiful, but I did feel sorry that everyone wore the same clothes for the entire show.

In the end, one always wonders if sense or sensibility will win out, and happily for the Dashwood sisters, they learn to combine them both for a happy ending.

That old guy in the ads would be so pleased.

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