Review: The Guthrie’s “Sense and Sensibility”

The Guthrie Theater’s production of “Sense and Sensibility” is charming, fresh and witty — just like the Dashwood sisters in the center of drama.

The Guthrie Theater's production of Sense and Sensibility, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Sarah Rasmussen.

Photo by Dan Norman, Courtesy of The Guthrie Theater

The Guthrie Theater’s production of Sense and Sensibility, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Sarah Rasmussen.

Maddy Folstein

Disclaimer: the person who wrote this review has never read a Jane Austen novel.

The person who wrote this review has also realized the error of her ways.

As it happens, the Guthrie Theater’s production of “Sense and Sensibility” may have had something to do with this realization.

Following the death of their father and the loss of most of his inheritance, the Dashwood sisters and their mother must move to the countryside. Here, they face love, lust and loss under society’s constant scrutiny.

The play, adapted by Kate Hamill and based on Jane Austen’s 1811 novel, feels just as modern as any sitcom or soap opera. There’s young love, inheritance drama and gossip mills.

The bare technical elements of the production (the set contains only a few pieces of furniture) allow the story’s wit and language to shine.

The rotating stage creates the image of a rounded dining table, allowing the audience to catch glimpses of well-crafted pantomime and perfectly timed reactions.

This staging allows a balanced, talented group of actors to showcase their talents. The ensemble, dressed all in black, floods the stage throughout the production to share their reactions to the onstage drama.

Biting, cackling and prying, this Greek chorus of sorts doesn’t let the audience forget that societal criticism is at the core of “Sense and Sensibility.”

In a notably female-centric play, the cast of “Sense and Sensibility” offers brilliant facets of femininity. Elinor (Jolly Abraham) and Marianne (Alejandra Escalante) Dashwood represent “sense” and “sensibility” respectively.

Abraham displays a cool demeanor until pressure cracks her outer shell in heartbreaking moments of vulnerability. Escalante’s bold rejections of society’s expectations shine until heartbreak forces her into painful silence.

In its most joyful moments, “Sense and Sensibility” accurately captures the humor of young love. Elinor’s interactions with Edward Ferrars (played affably by John Catron) fan a palpable yet appropriate air of awkwardness. The youngest Dashwood sister, Margaret (who was played by Isadora Swann on Sept. 16), brings childlike wonder and delight to the production.

In a story centered around the love lives of the young, the older characters do not miss a beat. Most memorable is Mrs. Jennings, played with vivacious, occasionally irreverent humor by Sally Wingert.

A production for Austen devotees and newcomers (I promise!) alike, “Sense and Sensibility” is a joyful production that stands well on its own.

What: “Sense and Sensibility”

When: Now through Oct. 29

Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 S 2nd St., Minneapolis

Cost: $29-$77, $3 off for full-time college students (18+)