Courtesy of the Folger Theater.
Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” has kicked off the 2016-17 season at the Folger Theater, opening to rave reviews. Its laugh out loud performances has earned the famous novel’s production multiple–now four–extensions, with its last performance to be held Sunday, November 13th. In fact, the play may have run even longer, if if weren’t for the theater’s holiday production, “The Second Shepherds’ Play.” This season marks the 25th anniversary of the Folger.
“Sense and Sensibility is directed by Eric Tucker, Artistic Director of Bedlam in New York. Tucker was recently featured in “The New York Times,” and was named Director of the Year by The Wall Street Journal in 2014. Folger Theater’s rendition is adapted by Kate Hamill, starring Erin Weaver as Marianne Dashwood and Maggie McDowell as Elinor, Marianne’s more restrained sister. The 10-member cast, which is superbly utilized in playing dozens of roles in often-humorous “pinch-hitting” between minor characters, also includes Caroline Stefanie Clay, Jacob Fishel, Michael Glenn, Jamie Smithson, and Kathryn Tkel.
Hamill’s adaptation has received much acclaim already in New York, and its DC premiere seems on-track to match the audience enthusiasm here in the District.
“Sense and Sensibility” is playing in conjunction with the Folger Shakespeare Library’s year-long “Wonder of Will” celebration, which commemorates 400 years of Shakespeare.
As Austen’s first published novel, “Sense and Sensibility” carries all the author’s classic paradoxical situations of romance, station, and family. Following the death of her husband, Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters are thrust into an unfortunate financial situation, with the overbearing wife of Mr. Dashwood’s son from a previous marriage takes over the family home. What unfolds is a heart-warming, humorous, and still-timely series of events that contrast how the Dashwood sisters compose and handle themselves in romance.
McDowell, who delicately plays the nuanced, subdued character of Elinor, is contrasted perfectly by the spunky, fiery Marianne, expertly played by Weaver (who we also enjoyed watching as Puck in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” earlier this year at the theater). There were many laugh out loud moments in the play, but two standout occurrences came from Jamie Smithson, who primarily played Edward Ferrars, but lent his versatile acting to portray younger brother Robert Ferrars, a carousing, skirt-chasing, status-obsessed dandy during a particularly humorous monologue; and Lisa Birnbaum, who played the reserved matriarch Mrs. Dashwood with such aplomb that it was hard to believe she was also the tactless Anne Steele who betrays an important secret with a lower-class accent and crass attempts at blending in with high society.
“Folger Theatre’s 25th -anniversary brings to our historic stage the sparkling work of two literary celebrities—William Shakespeare and Jane Austen,” says Janet Alexander Griffin, Folger Theatre’s Artistic Producer. “To open the season, Kate Hamill’s captivating adaptation of Austen’s great novel is a treat—full of fun while true to the heart of the much-loved novel. And, along with an exciting cast and team of designers, I’m delighted to welcome Eric Tucker to the Folger. His imaginative and fresh direction inspires actors as well as audiences and delivers an amazing theater experience.”