A witty and silly ‘Sense and Sensibility’ delights at Everyman Theatre

It's the perfect play for springtime, full of hope, young love, and the pursuit of happiness.

It begins with a shrouded corpse (the late Mr. Dashwood) dropped unceremoniously on a table with several gossips leaning over the body and whispering behind their fans what the patriarch’s death means for his widow and three daughters — two of whom are of marriageable age, but now left without any money or prospects. It ends (211-year-old SPOILER ALERT) with a double wedding. In between, there are romances, suitors, cads, many tears, failed and secret engagements, and minor scandals.

The Company of ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility remains true to the source material, and in her vein of feminist stagings of classic works, she highlights how the cruel inequities and societal pressures of that time could ruin young men and women on their way to a happily ever after. Her works, too, are always irreverent, contemporary, and winking at the audience who know these works well, while offering accessible entry points for those not versed in 19th-century literature. And, as directed by Susanna Gellert, the play is also made slapstick silly with its spartan staging, breakneck speed, and most of the cast doubling or tripling character roles.

Katie Kleiger and Megan Anderson in ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

The wit of the script (many of the best lines closely following Austen’s own) and the alacrity of the dashing couples falling in and out of love all work to make for a delightful evening at Everyman Theatre, the perfect play for springtime, full of hope, young love, and the pursuit of happiness.

The sensible elder sister Elinor Dashwood and romantic younger sister Marianne, are played respectively by Everyman’s Resident Company members Megan Anderson and Katie Kleiger, both equally adept at expressing their famous characters’ essential traits, while hitting all the comedic notes. As Elinor is more staid, the sister who keeps the family together while protecting her impetuous younger sister and keeping a harmful secret, Anderson is rock steady in her performance, until her big final moment of relief when she is awash in tears. Kleiger’s Marianne is simply charming with her winning smile, open demeanor, and unguarded levity. Marianne falls in love quickly and the audience falls as quickly in love with Kleiger.

They are joined by a versatile cast consisting almost entirely of Everyman’s Resident Company — Deborah Hazlett, Helen Hedman, Hannah Kelly, Tony Nam, Bruce Randolph Nelson, and Jefferson A. Russell — and two DMV mainstays, Tuyet Thi Pham and Zack Powell, who create the rest of the Austenian universe from mothers to suitors to gossipy neighbors to horses. Powell is especially dashing as the heartbreaker Willoughby, and Pham offers one of the best comedic moments of the evening when she plays both the snobbish Fanny Dashwood and the sneaky Lucy Steele squaring off for a Regency boxing match (and props to fight director Lewis Shaw for this one-person knockout). Hedman, as the matchmaking Mrs. Jennings, carries the opening of the second act with her sardonic observations and meddling asides.

The plot deals heavily with economics — fortunes tied to the landed gentry, marriages, and parental whims — and the simple staging all adds to that sense of economy nicely. The set design by Deb Sivigny (two windows, a door, two tables, several chairs, and a tapestry scrim), bright and expressive costumes by David Burdick, wigs by Denise O’Brien, and subtle lighting (Harold F. Burgess II) and sound design (Sarah O’Halloran) underscore the issues of genteel poverty while adding to the overall farcical feel of the play.

The Company of ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ Photo by Teresa Castracane.

A comedy of manners that shows the dark undercurrent of gossip (love affairs, livelihoods, and reputations are all jeopardized by salacious rumors), the comedy clips along briskly. With only a few duller moments — the inkpot-sharing scene between Elinor and the shy Edward Ferrars (Tony Nam) blunts the mad dash satire of the opening sequence — Sense and Sensibility is witty, silly, and tender.

Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.

EXTENDED: Sense and Sensibility plays through May 9, 2022, at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For tickets ($29–$69), call the box office at (410) 752.2208 or purchase them onlineTickets are also available for the digital streaming option ($20) starting April 22. (Digital streaming access must be purchased by Sunday, May 1, at midnight. Viewers can watch on-demand until May 15.) Box office hours are Monday to Friday from 9 am until 6 pm, and Saturdays from 10 am until 5 pm.

The program for Sense and Sensibility is online here.

Best enjoyed by patrons 10+.

COVID Safety: Everyman’s Guide to Patron Health and Safety is here.


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