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Review: Orlando Shakespeare Theatre’s “Sense and Sensibility”

 "Sense and Sensibility" at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre

Lindsey Kyler (Elinor) and Piper Rae Patterson (Marianne) in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Photo by Tony Firriolo.

Orlando Shakespeare Theatre serves up a delectable theatrical confection with its sterling production of “Sense and Sensibility.”

Adapted by Jon Jory from the Jane Austen novel, the play is set in the English countryside during the early 1800s. The setting is of exacting importance. It informs the action, the characters, theme of the story, and, rightly so, the pristine production values that unfold seamlessly on the OST stage.

The story revolves around the love and heartbreak of the two Dashwood sisters — Elinor (the one with “sense”) and Marianne (the one with romantic “sensibility,” what we now call “sensitivity”).

The late Henry Dashwood has left most of his estate to his son, forcing his widow and daughters to find another place to live. Thanks to the generosity of a jolly relative, they move to a cottage where the mother promises they will be “tolerably comfortable.”

The sisters soon fall for two young men, both suitable for marriage, and eventually discover that you need both a bit of sense and sensibility when it comes to love.

Directed by Mark Routhier, the OST production of “Sense and Sensibility” is, simply put, exquisite. The show’s delicate rhythm and ripening pace keeps us with the sisters’ every step and hoping they will find true love and a good marriage. A seasoned director with lengthy credits, Mr. Routhier fills this production with impeccable period style. The characters are all so terribly well behaved, even when they’re courting the dastardly side, that it’s all you can do to remind yourself that no time in history is perfect.

The acting throughout is splendid. Indeed, it is so heartfelt that when the lovers finally do get together (come on, you KNEW that was going to happen), you shed a little tear of happiness.

Lindsey Kyler finds the rational, logical core to Elinor but also lets shine the emotional heart she tries to mask. Piper Rae Patterson brings out Marianne’s playful, naive heart so well that it becomes quite acceptable for her to be whisked off her delicate feet three times.

Watching Suzanne O’Donnell (Mrs. Henry Dashwood) and Joe Vincent (Sir John Middlewood) act together is a rich treat. The two bring written language to such vivid, natural life that one laps up with joy every every morsel they dish out.

Although a splendid actress, the only thing Ann Herring needs to do to evoke a laugh as Mrs. Jennings, is to walk onto the stage. Here, she is decked out in the biggest white wig that looks as if a little puffy cloud has settled on her head. More to that, Ms. Herring’s affectionate portrayal of the matchmaker brings out a character who is the essence of likability.

Shannon Michael Wamser is dashing and handsome as Willoughby, the first man to lift Marianne into his arms to rescue her. Martin Yurek gets to the brooding, romantic soul of Colonel Brandon, the second man to rescue Marianne.
And John P. Kellar charms as the quiet, enigmatic Edward Ferrars, the gentleman whom Elinor loves.

All these meticulous portrayals are accentuated even further by the production values. Scenic designer Bert Scott has created a clean and classical setting for this proper story. Add to that Britt Sandusky’s smart sound design and Eric T. Haugen’s rich lighting design which transform the three level stage into a home, a barnyard, a pastoral setting, a parlor and much more. And, Jack S. Smith’s beautiful costume design serves the actors well in moving into a multitude of scenes.

And what fun to view the strange Regency style dancing as created by choreographer W. Robert Sherry. It is yet another detail that adds life to the production.

This is polished theater. It overflows with period style of directing and acting. There are gorgeous visuals. It’s all done so well that the cast and crew make it appear easy. “Sense and Sensibility” is a sweet treat — delicious perfection from beginning to end.

SIDE O’ GRITS: “Sense and Sensibility” runs through March 17 at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando. to . Call 407-447-1700 or visit www.orlandoshakes.org.