The USC Department of Theatre and Dance's presentation of “Sense and Sensibility” is a refreshing and witty take on the classic novel by Jane Austen.
Directed by Lindsay Rae Taylor and set in early 19th century England, the play follows sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood in their journey through love. After their father dies, the Dashwoods are forced to relocate to the countryside, where they meet a plethora of colorful characters.
The two sisters represent the two sides of the title. Marianne Dashwood (Kimberly Braun), a spontaneous, excitable and romantic young woman, represents sensibility. Elinor Dashwood (Libby Hawkins), an affectionate, composed and rational character, represents sense. Because these characters are so different from one another, it’s easy as an audience member to personally identify with one or the other.
One thing that stands out in this production of “Sense in Sensibility” is the quick and smooth transitions between scenes. The play is consistently fast-paced, which allows the audience to stay engaged the entire time.
Between scenes, there were orchestral arrangements of famous pop songs playing to fill the silence. These modern songs in the style of early 19th century added a modern flare to the play that is set in a traditional time.
At first, I was a little confused as to why I was hearing a string orchestra play Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.” Yet, the infusion of modern music into a pre-Victorian England style is what makes this theatrical adaption of Jane Austen’s play so great. By playing more modern music, we are able to see how to connect problems and issues of today with Austen’s themes from the past.
Although the music and set changes were phenomenal, the true highlight of the play comes from the cast’s impressive and witty performance as 19th century English men and women. The cast’s convincing and lavish portrayal of these characters shows both the talent and immense training of USC's theater program.
Third-year theater major Riley Lucas illustrated this talent through his portrayal of Mrs. Jennings. Through his acting and comedic approach to the character, Lucas is able to bring the traditional and boring Mrs. Jennings to life.
As the leads, Braun and Hawkins also create special moments during the production. While on stage, the two actress’s interactions with each other are both lively and caring. Together, Braun and Hawkins are able to create the type of caring and loving relationship that the Dashwood sisters share.
Altogether, “Sense and Sensibility” is a sophisticated, cunning and comedic adaption on Jane Austen's classic novel and is a production that truly showcases the talent that the University of South Carolina has to offer.