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Sense and Sensibility @ Costa Mesa Playhouse – Review

photo credit: Amber Scott

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Originally a novel by Jane Austen, the play Sense and Sensibility follows the lives of the Dashwood sisters as they maneuver the social complexities of the upper class in late 1700s England. While this play’s formal speech and historical realism begs a certain degree of patience and maturity in its’ viewer, Costa Mesa Playhouse’s production of Sense and Sensibility is heartfelt and sympathetic.

It is the late 1700s, and the Dashwood patriarch has just passed away. His wife and daughters are banished from their large estate to reside in a small country cottage. Due to laws of the time, all financial and proprietary comforts to which they were previously accustomed passed to Mr. Dashwood’s closest male heir–a son from a previous marriage. Bereft of the social advantages accompanying their father’s wealth and status, sisters Elinor and Marianne seek the temporally essential support of their husbands. While watching them pursue love, we see health and happiness risked by each in very different ways.

Story:

As the story unfolds, one can’t help but be surprised at how enticing the characters are. While it’s true that lately, our society has begun frowning on the open proclamation that having a man is essential to a woman’s existence, the pursuit of companionship and confidence in oneself is fairly timeless. Elinor (played by Kendall Sinclair) and Marianne (Michelle de la Peña) are two teenage sisters operating on completely different wavelengths. Sinclair’s Elinor is composed and disciplined, while Peñas Marianne is impulsive and fanciful. Both actresses do a beautiful job expressing the relationship between the two girls and their struggle to find a way through the often cruel society around them.

Acting:

The acting shown by the cast is top-tier. Nearly everyone in the cast plays more than one character at some point or another, and whether they are a town gossip, a leading player, or even a dog (yes, they have a farm scene), the commitment is there. It’s so evident that scenes that ordinarily might be uneventful bring a splash of humor to what might otherwise be an excessively stoic romance. Imagine an actor playing a wealthy elitist on all fours grunting like a pig. It brings some needed levity (and if this doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, don’t worry, these scenes go as quickly as they come).

Set/Costumes:

The general look of the story is fine. They have good costumes and a creative set of sliding-back screens in place of ornate backgrounds. Some might take issue with the lack of realism, suspend your disbelief, and you’ll be fine–heck, some scenes might elicit laughter.

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Good Show! OCR Recommended! 

March 17 – April 9,2023.

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