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Review: Sense & Sensibility at Playcrafters Barn Theater

Okay all you Jane Austen addicts, hustle on over to Playcrafters Barn Theatre to get your fix by taking in Kate Hamill’s adaptation of Austen’s classic novel, Sense and Sensibility flamboyantly directed by the gifted Jennifer Kingry.

Kingry points out in her program notes that producing an Austen novel on stage is a somewhat monumental task due to large casts and numerous scene changes set throughout the English countryside and various drawing rooms. She also readily admits to poaching an idea from the Off Broadway production of this script by the Bedlam Theatre she caught on You Tube and pulls it off seamlessly. Every – and I mean EVERY – piece of furniture and set piece is mounted on casters and rolled upstage, which is unlit, when not in use so that the cast of four women and three men, who also stay in that upstage area when not actually performing, can roll them out at lightning speed. The set pieces and furniture are minimal and it was dazzling to watch and ultra impressive that the cast not only had to learn a plethora of lines but also had to learn all the scene change placements. As is, this show runs 2½ hours. Were it not for this supersonic staging it would easily run much longer.

Kingry also employs some extremely clever, hilarious and downright silly portrayals of a horseback romp, carriage riding, and bedroom scene that are difficult to describe but they alone make seeing this show worthwhile.

S & S is such a classic that I don’t need to give a play by play recounting of the plot. In a nutshell: family loses dad and fortune, eldest daughter meets boy, falls in love but thinks he’s affianced to another; her sister meets boy, falls in love but he breaks her heart, there are parties and dancing and everything works out in the end. Austen’s appeal is not so much the circumstances themselves but how she tells the story and this is a superb adaptation.

Heading up this very accomplished cast in her very first lead role is Legend Donaldson as Elinor Dashwood. She captures the essence of the lovely but reticent eldest daughter but there were times she let her volume drop and her lines were lost. As the exuberant broken-hearted younger sister, Marianne is Lena Slininger. She is a yummy delight to watch, but she also had several times when she could not be heard. These two were the only members of the cast that did not play multiple roles. Because the rest of the cast does play more than one role, sometimes without any costume change, you need to stay on your toes, especially because the talented Thayne Lamb plays both Edward Ferrars – Elinor’s love interest – and Robert Ferrars, Edward’s brother and does so very well.

Let me wrap up this review by acknowledging that I often point out problems with the actors’ projection and not being able to hear lines. I readily admit I was beginning to think it was ME. As what many would describe as a senior citizen I thought maybe my hearing is fading. However, over the weekend I happened to see a young couple who also saw this show. They agreed that there were projection issues. So, I send out a plea to both actors and directors to be aware.

Sense and Sensibility continues at Playcrafters Barn Theatre, 4950 35 th Avenue , Moline Friday and Saturday, May 12 and 13 at 7:30 pm and Sunday, May 14 at 3:00 pm…a great Mothers Day gift.