- Jane Austen lived a short and relatively secluded life, but
between 1811 and 1816 she published four successful novels.
Two more novels were published posthumously.
and Sensibility,” now playing at the Milwaukee Repertory
Theater, is her first. The adaptation by Mark Healy is the
version being presented. Virtually all of Austen’s six
novels have been adapted to film, TV or to the stage. Despite
the very different world Jane Austen lived in, her works still
resonate with modern audiences.
dramas with the mores and mannerisms of a bygone age are ever
fascinating. How did they dress, what societal customs
governed their behaviors, what were the gender rules and
restrictions, and what modes of transportation and
communication were available to them? “Sense and
Sensibility” answers some of those questions in regard to
the milieu of the early 1800s.
women have always gotten together for various motivations.
Love, security, companionship, riches, sexual attraction,
desire for a family, financial sharing - any or all of these
factors encourage pairing up. What interests us is how these
mating conventions are played out at various points in
history. Then we can make some cogent comparisons.
love, connivances, betrayals, friendship - all figure into
this story, but the overriding theme is the fierce loyalty and
attachment between two sisters - Elinor and Marianne - who
represent the contrast in the title of the play.
rationality and composure versus emotion, spontaneity and
romanticism were two prevailing ways of viewing the world and
the arts in Austen’s time. As to which attitude or stance
prevails in the story is debatable.
I think they merge in a balanced approach toward life
opinion, Austen’s ability to create memorable characters is
the chief reason for her continued appeal. We will not soon
forget Elinor or Marianne, or even the fascinating rogue
Willoughby, the clumsy but honorable Edward or the stodgy
though noble Colonel Brandon. Even Sir John Middleton and Mrs.
Jennings made a lasting imprint with their histrionics.
changing of the scenes made possible by the beautiful,
functional set design by Scott Bradley, the lovely costumes by
Angela Balogh Calin, the realistic sound effects of Steven
Cahill and the varying lighting auras by Thomas C. Hase all
enhance the attraction and beauty of the show.
in the acting department include Kate Hurster as Elinor,
Victoria Mack as Marianne, Ben Jacoby as Willoughby and Laura
Gordon as Mrs. Jennings.
the actors played multiple roles, which may help the budget,
but it presents a credibility factor, especially in regard to
Laura Gordon, whose voice is so distinctive and can’t be
easily changed to accommodate different roles in the same
Sullivan was the most convincing as she changed from Fanny to
Lady Middleton to Lucy; so she gets the transformation prize.
Jonathan Gillard Daly gets honorable mention for executing his
though “Sense and Sensibility” is not quite as enjoyable
as “Pride and Prejudice,” which was produced several years
ago, it is always a pleasure to encounter another of
Austen’s treasures. Director Art Manke deserves the credit
for putting together such a seemingly simple but really quite
complex story that held our interest throughout the show. We
cared about what happened to Elinor and Marianne, and that’s