“Sense and Sensibility,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, certainly pleases the high school students who travel to Ashland for a taste of live theater.
In Kate Hamill’s sprightly adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel, a kiss and a marriage proposal on bent knee have the teens shrieking with joy. It’s always fun to see their reactions.
Austen’s familiar tale involves the recently widowed Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters. Upon her husband’s death, their estate passes to his son from a previous marriage. When he turns them out they move into a humble cottage owned by a kind relative.
Hamill’s play, directed with a fresh touch by Hana Sharif, treats serious issues of Austen’s time with lightly ironic humor. Two hundred years ago, and much more recently than that, falling in love could be thwarted by the financial need to make a good marriage. Money dictated coupling.
A poor man and woman might fall in love, but marriages weren’t made in heaven; they were made at the bank.
Today, smart young women go to graduate school expecting to earn a fine living, but Jane Austen’s characters, however smart, were confined to limited roles in the home.
And that’s why it is so satisfying when those endearing characters cleverly manage to avoid unhappy marriages and actually end up with a loving mate.
But before that happy end, the women must suffer at the hands of stingy relatives or cunning suitors all too willing to mistreat the disadvantaged.
The two eldest daughters are of marriage age, but their hopes are slim. As played by Nancy Rodriguez, Elinor is warm and sensible, and Emily Ota is spirited as Marianne. These are the most compelling and real characters in the play, while some of the others, although entertaining, are cartoon-like and superfluous.
This is Dorothy Velasco with KLCC’s Ashland Theater Review.