How often we forget that a large part of why we love the theatre is because it is fun. WE applaud performances for their groundbreaking work, the message in the face of adversity, and the need to say something (it can be anything as long as it’s something). Yet we fail in our initial goal to create something enjoyable and fun, something to lighten our spirits and take us away from the damaged race relationships, the struggle of the lgbt, the plight of women across the globe, and the religious right taking over our world one government at a time. I mean creating theatre that speaks to those issues is great, but is it fun? Well thankfully Laura Toner Haddock, and her cast and crew at Austin Playhouse have not forgotten about theatre being fun, so they devised a clever and heartwarming show that is just that, pure unadulterated fun. From beginning to end this show is one large joke, followed by style, and topped off with creativity making one stellar production.
Sense and Sensibility is a lovely Jane Austen tale of lovely English girls searching for the perfect man to lay their trap for, snagging themselves a respectable husband. Knit together with the anglophiles favorite subject “lineage” and filled with manners and society expectation Sense and Sensibility on it’s face and by its original nature is rather dull and lifeless. I think the original movie version of the novel clocks in around 4 hours. However that is not the case with this reincarnation of the English classic. Austin Playhouse and Director Lara Toner Haddock have created a masterclass in creativity and a masterpiece of comedy. The show opens with the entire cast coming out to “set the stage” and then re-set the stage and yet still to play with the set and props even more. Showing us glimpses of their various characters and their eccentricities. Then once it is really time to get the show rolling they pick themselves up and start dancing to Adele or rather one of Adele’s songs played on a piano. From here it is non-stop giggles and all out guffaws until the final bows.
This show is unique in it multi-purpose set, props and most importantly casting. With all but 2 actors playing multiple roles, furniture, and even animals to help tell the story all without changing a costume. I can only imagine the fun this cast had in rehearsals and coming up with some of the more hilarious staging gags that were used. I found so much humor in the human horse and buggies, as well as the vicious and lovable hunting dogs of Sir John Middleton. Every moment of this show is filled with unexpected touches that bring new life and energy into its tired and classic source material. This is Jane Austen like you have never seen it before, an a show you don’t want to miss.
I would normally write about the different actors and their individual performances but this show is such a well oiled machine it would not be fair to single out any actors for any reason good or bad. The truth is they all did a superb job and made you feel like they were one person acting in unison, That to me is the greatest compliment any cast can ever get. My hat goes off to them all!
As for the production qualities themselves the set designed by Mike Toner is perfection for the needs of the show and in many ways acts as another character in the story. The Costumes by Buffy Manners are exceptional showing that this period is one of her favorites. The costumes all serve their purpose well while staying basic enough to work for multiple characters and minimizing confusion. But the real piece de resistance is Joel Mercado-See’s sound design, his choice of songs and musical interludes to help punctuate the action on stage is what makes the story come to life in a whole new way.
I highly recommend you seeing Sense and Sensibility before it’s gone! This show is one big Victorian party! Go run, don’t walk to get your tickets for this laugh out loud production!
Sense and Sensibility runs Thursday through Sunday until April 30th. More information and tickets can be found on the Austin Playhouse website. http://www.austinplayhouse.com