On stage at the Arts Club Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, until April 2, 2023, Sense and Sensibility by writer Kate Hamill adds a bit of modern perspective to the Jane Austen classic tale of love, marriage, wits and class.
Gossip, intrigue, scandal, impropriety are at the forefront of director Rachel Peake’s production, mixed with the typical emotional restraint of Regency England. First greeted by Shizuka Kai’s creative set, made up of embroidery hoops highlights the expectations, and burden, imposed upon ladies of English society.
As the story begins, Costume Designer Jacqueline Firkins wraps the villagers in garments printed with handwritten notes, as their loose tongues catch us up to the plight of the Dashwoods; recently widowed, Mrs Dashwood and her three daughters Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, who are being put out of their home by the new heir, their half-brother and his snob of a wife. Reflecting today’s insatiable appetite for scandal and intrigue, the ‘gossips’ cleverly appear throughout the play to help move the story along, without them, the play would be even longer than its 2.5 hours. The scene changes are also creatively fast-paced as the company rolls and slides the set furniture along with the performers between locations.
The subject of much of the gossips gaze centers upon Elinor and Marianne, played by Nyiri Karakas and Amanda Sum respectively. The only two cast members to not appear as more than one character, Karakas and Sum carry the heavy burden of Elinor and Marianne’s emotional and turbulent love lives. Karakas brings the level-headed, propriety expected of elder-sister Elinor, who pines for the love of unavailable Edward Ferrars (Kamyar Pazandeh). Meanwhile Sum’s Marianne, a modern thinking girl who cares little for what’s expected of her, is an emotional roller-coaster torn between two suitors; the vibrant, and unscrupulous Willoughby (Jay Clift) and staid, honourable Colonel Brandon (Abraham Asto). Aided and abetted though their trials and tribulations; Sarah Cantuba as younger sister Margaret Dashwood, Janet Gigliotti as Mrs Dashwood, as well Andrew McNee as cousin Sir John Middleton, Emma Slipp as his drunken wife, and Nora McLellan as his meddling, mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings.
With a cast filled with many actors so skilled at comedy, their delivery and timing keep the play from being weighed down by the lovelorn, balancing laughter along with the wails of heartbreak.
While Sense and Sensibility is long, the creative direction and precisely choreographed set changes keep up a quick pace, sure to appeal to those who enjoy a period drama (with some scene-stealing comedy).
Sense and Sensibility plays at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage, 2750 Granville Street, until April 2, 2023. Details and tickets online at artsclub.com