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Sense and Sensibility at the Guthrie

Sense and Sensibility, currently playing at the Guthrie, is a new adaptation of one of Jane Austen's best known works. Before seeing the show Thursday night I knew nothing about the Sense and Sensibility other than its title and author, but Kate Hamill's adaptation was a wonderful and fun introduction to the story. It is a story centered on the two Dashwood sisters and their journeys in love.

Alejandra Escalante, Jolly Abraham and Suzanne Warmanen in Sense and Sensibility. Photo by Dan Norman.

Taking place in Edwardian England, marriage and prospects were of utmost importance and value. Luckily this is no longer the case in our society, and at first glance this story may seem antiquated, but it is still very relatable. The two sisters at the center of the story Elinor and Marianne represent the namesake Sense and Sensibility respectively. Elinor is very proper and has a practiced even temperament, always following the rules, whereas her sister Marianne follows her heart in manners of love. However both of them suffer in separate ways for their approaches. As director Sarah Rasmussen explains in the program there is still a cost for both following and breaking rules. In the time of the Austen it was gossip that could ruin someone's reputation, this is still the case although the gossip has moved primarily to social media. Sense and Sensibility, along with most of Austen's stories, show these pressures and heroes rising up against them. The direction of this play wonderfully illustrates these internal and subtle conflicts onstage through dramatic physical movement and lighting in a way that was extremely affective.

This movement, along with many of the walking scenes so ubiquitous in Austen's stories, is facilitated by the rotation of separate areas of the stage. The set, designed by scenic designer Junghyun Georgia Lee was mostly bare, with different set pieces entering and exiting the stage as needed, but the center of the stage is filled with a beautiful parqueted floor. The floor itself is enough to draw visual interest but the lighting design by Charlie Morrison illuminated it in different colors in different scenes to both aid in setting location and in dramatic effect.

The cast had a great chemistry and was made up of a mix of Guthrie debut's and staples of the Twin Cities theater scene. Jolly Abraham and Alejandra Escalante were the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, and the care between them was very apparent. Robert Dorfman and Sally Wingert as Sir John Middleton and Mrs Jennings were both lovable and hilarious. Remy Auberjonois, John Catron and Torsten Johnson play Colonel Bradon, Edward Farrars and John Willoughby respectively. All romantic interests were very charming in there own way but John Catron's Edward was particularly lovable in his well played awkwardness. The cast is rounded out by Kimiye Corwin, Emily Gunyou Halaas, Michael Hanna, Aeysha Kinnunen, Kris L Nelson, Isadora Swann/Natalie Tran (who switch off performances as the youngest Dashwood sister), Suzanne Warmanen and Olivia Wilusz.

The Guthrie's Sense and Sensibility is a fun night at the theater. And as a woman, seeing a show about sisters, that was made by both a cast and creative team that is primarily made up of women was both refreshing and hopeful. Because in a man's world (or a male dominated field), it is always nice to see women succeed.

Sense and Sensibility is playing at the Guthrie's Wurtele Thrust Stage through October 29.

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