Review: Silly Sensibility at American Players Theater

Posted July 25, 2022

Sense 7

By Aaron R. Conklin, Madison Magazine

The novels of Jane Austen are certainly known for featuring dry wit and humor, but they’ve never been considered reliable sources of knee-slapping comedy. Don’t tell that to Jessica Swale, whose joke-heavy adaptation of Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” is currently in the capable hands of American Players Theatre. While Swale’s adaptation hits all the stops of Austen’s plot, it leans into its comic elements like Falstaff on a bender. At times, it feels like Sense, Sensibility and a Laugh Track. And APT’s cast has an absolute blast with it.

The Dashwoods have been struck with the kind of destiny-altering bad luck on which Austen’s stories typically center: When the patriarch of the fam dies at the beginning of the play, the widow and her three daughters get to watch their cowardly half- brother (Tim Gittings) and his snooty spouse (Tracy Michelle Arnold) inherit everything, booting them off, all but penniless, to the confines of a small cottage in (gasp!) Devonshire.

The only way out, of course, is for the two oldest sisters — sensible Elinor (Laura Rook, whose cool and stately reserve was made for Austen adaptations like this) and youthfully impulsive Mariane — to find husbands, pronto. Naturally, this proves far more difficult than it sounds. “All we’re at liberty to do is sit and wait,” bemoans Rook’s Elinor of the fate of young women in the 19th century. She’s certainly not wrong.

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