Through February 10|
SENSE & SENSIBILITY Andrews Theatre/Irish Classical Theatre Company
With English-language literature dominated for so long by the dreaded DWMs, the dead White Males, Jane Austen today is a familiar name in the Mars/Venus wars, as Lit goes across the board and looks back to times when women had no forums.
Remember, when Austen first published, her name wasn’t even on the title page.
The Irish Classical Theatre Company is staging Kate Hamill’s version of Austen’s “Sense & Sensibility,” a look at a mother and three daughters done in two centuries ago by Britain’s complicated and, often, Draconian inheritance laws.
Basically, the rules are that property can be limited to male heirs and a narrow range of male heirs, making it almost impossible for the property to ever be sold or for daughters to get a cut or to get a title (until recently).
That’s the pivot here, with a male heir, John Dashwood (Brendan Didio), pushed by his greedy and malicious wife, Fanny (Kate LoConti Alcocer), throwing out of the family estate his father’s second wife, Mrs. Dashwood (Jenn Stafford), and his three half-sisters, Elinor (Kristen Tripp Kelly), Marianne (Renee Landrigan) and Margaret (Brittany Bassett).
Under law, he could do that although it was usually frowned upon.
Mom has to get them married off, to someone with money.
They wind up moving to another estate, that of relative Sir John Middleton (David Lundy), Lady Middleton (Ben Michael Moran and Anthony Alcocer) and his mother-in-law (Josephine Hogan).
While this may seem simple, director Chris Kelly must also deal with the endless problem of performers playing multiple roles, sometimes leaving you a little confused as to whom the performer is playing.
Kelly makes maximum use of the staging and design used in prior productions of this Hamill script and the endless gamboling around on stage, of performers, chairs and tables.
There’s also the music, that constant flow so often heard in movies.
Austen has the smart sister, the flighty sister and the gradually learning sister.
Kelley’s Elinor is the smart and definite voice of what to do and she’s in love.
Much of the love match maneuvering revolves around the quest for an affluent husband, to keep them out of poverty, with some available candidates for each daughter.
What Austen does (and Hamill reworks) is so how complicated it was before bars and Tinder.
Men put themselves on the auction blocks, seeking the best offer for their name or their gold pile, or both.
Here, it gets complicated, as possible husbands flit in and out, with Moran playing both Ferrars brothers, brothers of Fanny Dashwood.
Unless you are a devout exponent of Jane Austen, what you have to do is sit there and try to follow what happens, including the final salvation of the Dashwood sisters.
It may seem silly and it probably would be, if it didn’t reflect the perils of life before the social safety net, for rich or poor.
In a modern day, Kelley’s Elinor would probably be running some big corporation or a law firm but here, she struggles to survive with some of the panache of her class.
Just sit back and relax and watch what’s going on.
There’s a little too much flash and dash in the staging, especially in the show’s open.
However, Kelly has a strong cast to work with, particularly Kelley, Moran, Landrigan and Alcocer’s Colonel Brandon.
Take Austen’s story, those times, strong flashes of humor, the cast and that’s why “Sense & Sensibility” is worth seeing.
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