Adapted & Directed by Jon Jory
At Northlight Theatre
“She felt the loss of Willoughby’s character yet more heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart.” – from Sense & Sensibility
Sprawling Gothic novel comes to life in Skokie in Sense & Sensibility
Adapter and director Jon Jory sure knows how to make a sprawling English Regency Era (1795-1837) novel – Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen(1775-1816) – into a most engaging stage-worthy experience. This world premiere production is performed by an “A” list of Equity players. Sense & Sensibility is a drama that centers on the Dashwood sisters as they seek husbands in an era where women were forced to survive by marrying into secure financial arrangements rather than merely for love. The story features Elinor Dashwood (Heidi Kettenring) and Marianne Dashwood (Helen Sadler) -two siblings with very different personalities who were lifelong best friends.
Elinor is the calm, rational and sensible sister who advises and aids her more emotional, romantic and smart sister, Marianne, as both enjoy their life of leisure but both must gain the security of gaining a man of means for their future. We see the drawing room drama of manners unfold with a rich assortment of characters that include older women and male suitors. We quickly are drawn into the world of polite British gentry where secrets and unexpected plot twists are dramatized using Jane Austen’s fluid and lyrical dialogue.
We see excellent performances by Helen Sadler as the passionate Marianne and Heidi Kettenring as the common sense sister. Kettenring demonstrates her dramatic acting chops here – we know her amazing singing ability. Sadler and Kettenring has an honest stage chemistry that anchors the show. We see the folly and flirtations of these women as well as the shyness and reserve of the well mannered gentleman.
This well-paced, almost cinematic touch, served the production well. The story flows as love overtakes the Dashwood sisters as they sort through their suitors. Their mother (Penny Slusher) and the jolly Mrs. Jennings (Wendy Robie in a humorous turn) aid the sisters in their quest for husbands. Greg Matthew Anderson, as the charming but insincere womanizer, Willoughby and Jay Whittaker as the honorable gentleman, Colonel Brandon, together with the shy Edward Ferrars, played with apt reserve by Geoff Rice are the eligible suitors for the sisters. These three gave splendid performances.
We cheer for the sisters to gain true love as we sort out and guess who’ll end up with whom. This charming, funny, and heartfelt drama is a wonderful period piece filled with terrific acting and articulate speech. The players are dressed in colorful period costumes (costumes designed by Rachel Laritz). This show is elegantly stylish with compelling characters that we quickly empathize with. Sense & Sensibility is more that merely a “women’s show,” it is a marvelous glimpse into the foibles of romance.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: March 19, 2011
At Northlight Theatre, 9501 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL, call 847-673-6300, www.northlight.org, tickets $40 – $50, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Friday and Saturdays at 8 pm, Wednesday matinees at 1 pm, Saturday & Sunday matinees at 2:30, Sundays at 7 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through April 27, 2011