Drama department stages ‘Sense and Sensibility’ to positive reviews

November 22, 2019 — by Jessica Wang and Marisa Kingsley

On Nov. 16, the fall play, “Sense and Sensibility,” had its opening night in the McAfee Center. Five minutes before the start of the performance, cast members dressed in early 19th century English costumes burst through the stage doors into the house, chatting excitedly in English accents, much to the surprise and delight of the audience.

The production opened with 150 people attending opening night, a slightly larger turnout than previous years. The cast staged its final performance on Nov. 23 and put on a total of four shows. 

The play opened with a chorus, comprised of a variety of “gossips,” that provided the audience with the Dashwood family’s background. The set consisted of simple, movable pieces, contributing to smoother transitions and drawing focus to the characters and their interactions.

Based on Jane Austen’s novel of the same name, the story centers on the elder Dashwood daughters, Elinor and Marianne, and their romantic interests. The two daughters are complements of each other — Elinor being the more mature and reserved of the two, while Marianne is spontaneous and idealistic. The two  are juxtaposed to represent the title of the novel, “sense” and “sensibility” respectively.

The first act was generally fast paced and lighthearted, with playful interactions among characters. The end of the act provided a more serious transition into the second, more dramatic, act, where relationships complicate and familial conflicts over inheritance and marriage are revealed.

Drama teacher and director Sarah Thermond said that the audience responded well to the performance and were invested in the varying plotlines. 

“There were a lot of people really buying into the social dynamics of all of the characters and enjoying how funny and twisted and cliffhanger-y some of it is,” Thermond said. 

The adaptation presented Thermond with the unique challenge of finding a balance between what scenes she wanted to portray more realistically compared to others where she could take a more surreal or comedic approach. Additionally, the dispersed “gossip scenes” including many actors on stage as well as the many set changes required much of the cast and crew to be “on their game” constantly. 

“Our crew and our cast together really learned the focus and the kind of gracefulness it takes to make that [scene changes] smoother,” Thermond said. 

Senior Hanna Fu, who attended the opening night performance, praised senior Emilie Prillwitz’s performance as the practical and responsible Elinor Dashwood.

“Her tone was very light and energetic, which I felt really fit the character,” she said. “And her delivery was consistent throughout the whole performance.”

Thermond attributes the success of the production to the “genuine enthusiasm” and professionalism of the cast and crew, despite the scheduling challenges presented during rehearsal. 

“There was a really good amount of enthusiasm about telling the story and the different characters,” Thermond said. “There was a genuine excitement to share that with other people.”

After the first weekend of shows, Thermond continued to work with the cast to improve vocal technique. She emphasized the importance of delivery since the production was largely based on dialogue.

“[Vocal technique is a priority] with Jane Austen and Shakespeare and all of those plays that are very much about what everyone is saying about everyone else,” she said. “Jane Austen even more so than Shakespeare because Jane Austen doesn’t have a ton of crazy action sequences except the ones we added.”

As weeks of rehearsals came to a close, Thermond saw how the cast had gained invaluable skills in incorporating the nuances of dialogue into their performance and flexibility in portraying scenes more realistically or adding their own flair to their performance.

“Being able to go back-and-forth between [realistic and comedic performances] makes actors more versatile and gives them a bigger toolbox of artistic skills,” Thermond said.

 

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