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Sense & Sensibility (Review)

Austen’s production comes to life in Louisville

By Rick Pender · September 7th, 2011 · Onstage
sense & sensibility
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For 31 years Jon Jory was the artistic leader of Actors Theatre of Louisville. He championed Jane Martin, a reclusive playwright who many observers believed to be Jory himself. Since his departure for the world of academia a decade ago, Jory has turned his attention to another Jane — 19th-century novelist Jane Austen — and made a cottage industry of adapting her ever-popular novels into stage plays. His most recent, Sense & Sensibility, published anonymously by Austen in 1811, is opening Actors Theatre’s 2011-2012 season. (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company had great success with Jory’s Pride & Prejudice earlier this year and mounts its own Sense & Sensibility in 2012.)

Jory has returned to Louisville to direct his script, which he describes as “one long piece of choreography, accompanied by dialogue.” With 50 scene changes in two one-hour acts, it’s a bit dizzying to watch.

But once you catch the speed of transitions, Jory’s fluid direction of an able cast makes this a fine reduction of a lengthy novel. 

The story focuses on Elinor Dashwood (Nancy Lemenager), who is rational, reserved and reasonable (the “sense” of the title), and her younger sister Marianne (Helen Sadler), impetuous, opinionated and romantic (full of “sensibility” as it was termed in the 19th century). The men in Jory’s adaptation are less interesting, but the sisters’ mother (Penny Slusher), eager to see her daughters “situated,” and Mrs. Middleton (Wendy Robie), a doting woman of wealth who takes on their advancement, add vivacity and humor to the story’s telling.

Jory has reduced other characters somewhat (another sister is perpetually offstage, involved in some mischief), but his script captures the essence of Austen’s novel — wry wit, heartfelt emotions, comic moments tempered with deeper feelings — by focusing on the ebb and flow between two sisters in their affairs of the heart. 

SENSE & SENSIBILITY, presented by Actors Theatre of Louisville, continues through Sept. 24.



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