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Sense & Sensibility
MARCH 10, 2011 - APRIL 17, 2011
Featuring a fresh new adaptation of the classic novel by Jane Austen - author of Pride and Prejudice and Emma!
Jane Austen's novels echo the English Regency era (1795 - 1837), revealing British society's fascination with the aristocracy and the gentry, as well as illustrating accomplishments in the fine arts, architecture, and refinement of culture and manners characteristic of the period. Read the selections below for insight into Jane Austen herself, and the era in which she lived and wrote.
Read the Blog! Get the inside scoop with Northlight Blog entries related specifically to Sense & Sensibility.
Jane in LettersJane Austen and her sister Cassandra maintained a lengthy written correspondence throughout their lives - not unlike the practice of the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility. These selected quotations from Jane's letters to her sister provide a glimpse into the Austen world:
Jane on Flirtation
To Cassandra (1796)
"You scold me so much in the nice long letter which I have this moment received from you, that I am almost afraid to tell you how my Irish friend and I behaved. Imagine to yourself everything most profligate and shocking in the way of dancing and sitting down together. I can expose myself, however, only once more, because he leaves the country soon after next Friday, on which day we are to have a dance at Ashe after all. He is a very gentlemanlike, good-looking, pleasant young man, I assure you." Read more>
Courtesy BooksThe sheer number of "Courtesy Books" in print during Jane Austen's time illustrates how important etiquette and proper manners were to society. Written by both men and women, these books existed primarily to instruct young girls in "natural" and "proper" behavior for a woman. Focus was shifting, however, from external to internal: manners were based upon good intentions and polite thoughts, not only fashionable appearances. In fact, it was sometimes permissible for rules of etiquette to be broken if the motives behind the actions were based on good intentions (Austen's heroines often break the mold of convention to do the right thing).
This sampling of Courtesy Book instructions will set you on the path to proper behavior:
For The Lady
1. Under no circumstances may a lady call upon a gentleman alone unless she is consulting that gentleman on a professional or business matter.
2. A lady does not wear pearls or diamonds in the morning.
3. A lady never dances more than three dances with the same partner.
Sense and Sensibility's 200th Anniversary - The Bicentenary Challenge
2011 marks the 200th anniversary of Sense and Sensibility's publication and the avid Austen fan base is taking the opportunity to reignite the passion for this particular novel. The internet blog Austenprose is organizing the "Sense and Sensibility Bicentenary Challenge 2011" through the end of the year. Participants sign up and commit to read or view twelve Austen-related pieces of work, including several novels and film versions of Sense and Sensibility. Participants comment on the online message-boards, and prizes are given out based upon completion of the challenge and comments/criticism shared with the community.
The Austen-related works in the challenge include a Marvel Comics version of Sense and Sensibility, as well as a 2011 film adaptation From Prada to Nada, which reimagines the story in a contemporary Latino community (full list below). More information can be found at www.austenprose.com.
Contemporary Adaptations of Austen's Work
Brightsea, by Jane Gillespie
Colonel Brandon's Diary, by Amanda Grange
Elinor and Marianne, by Emma Tennant
Eliza's Daughter, by Joan Aiken
Margaret Dashwood or Interference, by Mrs. Francis Brown
Reason and Romance, by Debra White-Smith
Sense and Sensibility (Marvel Illustrated), Nancy Butler and Sonny Liew
Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters
Sense and Sensibility: The Screenplay and Diaries, by Emma Thompson and Lindsay Doran
Suspense and Sensibility, by Carrie Bebris
The Annotated Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen and David M. Shaphard
The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman
The Dashwood Sisters Secrets of Love, by Rosie Ruston
The Dashwood Sisters Tell All, by Beth Pattillo
The Third Sister, by Julia Barrett
The Three Weismanns of Westport, Cathleen Schine
Willoughby's Return, by Jane Odiwe
Sense and Sensibility, 1971 (BBC TV mini-series)
Sense and Sensibility, 1981 (BBC TV mini-series)
Sense and Sensibility, 1995 (feature film)
Sense and Sensibility, 2008 (BBC TV mini-series)
I Have Found It (Kandukondain Kandukondain) 2000 (feature film, India)
From Prada to Nada, 2011 (feature film)
Greg Matthew Anderson (Willoughby) makes his Northlight Theatre debut. He is an Artistic Associate at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company where credits include Power, The Best Man, The Philadelphia Story, Bronte, On the Verge, The Marriage of Figaro, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Night and Day and The Importance of Being Earnest. He has appeared onstage at the Goodman (Rock 'N Roll), Court (Arcadia), American Theater Company (Oklahoma!), and IO Theater (A Moment Alone), as well as Next, Noble Fool, and Actors Revolution Theatre. Television: The Chicago Code (Fox), Detroit 187 (ABC), and the pilot Matadors (ABC/Sony). Greg is a graduate of Duke University's Department of Theater Studies.
Jordan Brown (Robert Ferrars/Gardener) studied acting at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Soon after graduating, Jordan played Tony in West Side Story at Ravinia's summer music festival. He then moved to New York City where he performed in a number of different off-Broadway productions, including Much Ado About Nothing at Theatre Roe and A Midsummer Night's Dream. For television, Jordan appeared on an episode of As the World Turns, playing the part of Hank. Most recently, Jordan played Fabrizio in The Light in the Piazza for River Valley Rep. A new resident of Chicago, Jordan is pleased to be a part of Northlight's production of Sense & Sensibility. He would like to thank Lynn Baber, Janet Mullet, and Greg Walter for their faith, generosity and support.
V Craig Heidenreich (Sir John Middleton) has directed or appeared in more than 150 professional productions over the past 35 years, including ten seasons and more than eighty productions with Actors Theatre of Louisville, three seasons with the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, two seasons with the Asolo Theatre in Florida, and three years as Artistic Director of the Complete Theatre Alliance and Infinite Space. Representative roles include Macbeth, Hamlet, Richard III, Iago, Jacques, Petruchio, Edgar, Bottom, Malvolio, Caliban... Most recently, V directed and/or performed in productions of Betrayal, Don Juan in Hell, Lion in Winter, Sea Marks, Hedda Gabler, Rough Crossing and Jon Jory's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. V has appeared in the feature film Tully and on TV's Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, and many commercials and voice-overs.
Heidi Kettenring (Elinor Dashwood) was last seen at Northlight in the Interplay readings of House On Stilts and Auctioning The Ainsleys, as well as in Side Show. Chicago credits include three years in the Broadway in Chicago production of Wicked at the Oriental, as well as work with Writers', Marriott Lincolnshire, Court, Chicago Shakespeare, Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace and Evergreen Park, Theatre At The Center, and American Theatre Company. Regionally she has appeared at Theatre Works in Palo Alto, Peninsula Players and Bar Harbor Theatre. Heidi has also sung concerts for the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Pensacola Symphony and can be heard singing on a Disney Princess children's book. She is a 4 time Jeff Award nominee, an After Dark Award winner, and the recipient of the Sarah Siddons' Chicago Leading Lady Award. Proud AEA member and wife of actor David Girolmo!
Franette Liebow (Mrs. John Dashwood) is delighted to return to Northlight where she previously understudied roles in Inherit the Wind. This past autumn, Franette played Miss Maude Atkinson in Steppenwolf's production of To Kill A Mockingbird. A member of (the erstwhile) Terrapin Theatre, Ms. Liebow appeared in their productions of Aunt Dan and Lemon, The Nina Variations (co-production with Steppenwolf), The Rimers of Eldritch and The Sneeze. Other theatre credits include Drury Lane Oakbrook, Eclipse, City Lit, Pegasus, Provision, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Steep, greasy joan & co., Illinois Theatre Center, Next, Backstage, Apple Tree, Circle, Canongate, New American, and Infamous Commonwealth. Franette also narrates audio books, and can be heard in radio dramas including The Twilight Zone (WGN) and the Mike Hammer series.
Diane Mair (Lucy Steele) is thrilled to be making her Northlight debut. Recent credits include Ermengarde in Hello Dolly (Light Opera Works), Virginia Poe in The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe (First Folio Shakespeare Festival), and Maureen in Rent and Cassie in A Chorus Line (Night Blue Theatre). She has worked locally with Northlight, Victory Gardens, Remy Bumppo, Appletree, Dog & Pony, Redmoon and is a proud member of TASK Theatre. She has worked regionally with The Long Wharf, Michigan Opera Theatre and the New York Fringe Festival, and internationally at the Festival Theatre, d'Avignon, France. Her film credits include Shock, The Clockmaker's Revelation and The Race. She is a graduate of Northwestern University where she teaches Acting for Film for the NHSI Summer Program.
Ginger Lee McDermott (Lady Middleton/Mrs. Ferrars) is very excited to be working with Northlight Theatre for the first time. She recently appeared in Jade Heart with Chicago Dramatists Theatre. Other Chicago credits include Bianca in Othello with Chicago Shakespeare; the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro with Remy Bumppo; and Ann Putnam, Sarah Good and Elizabeth Proctor in The Crucible with Steppenwolf. Regional credits include Proof with Orlando Theatre Project and A Doll's House with Pendragon Theatre. She has also appeared on television as "the Mom" on The Dooley and Pals Show.
Si Osborne (John Dashwood) has previously performed at Northlight in The White Rose, The Last Survivor and A Skull in Connemara. A Jeff-award winning actor, he has appeared at most of Chicago's theaters over the past 25 years. Favorite roles include Heisenberg in Copenhagen for 1900 productions and Illinois Theater Center, the title role in Henry V for Chicago Shakespeare, and Frank in Faith Healer at Steppenwolf. Other Steppenwolf credits include The Libertine and Disappeared. He directed True West for Red Twist Theater and the Jeff Award-winning A Prayer for My Daughter at Mary Arrchie Theater.
Geoff Rice (Edward Ferrars) is a huge Jane Austen fan and is thrilled to make his Northlight debut with this production. Most recently, he was seen across the hall at Centre East in Chicago Children's Theatre's The Hundred Dresses. Other Chicagoland theatres he has had the pleasure to work with include Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, The House, Theatre at the Center, About Face, Piven, Apple Tree, City Lit, Stage Left, Roadworks, Serendipity, Infusion, Striding Lion and Sandbox. He is a Northwestern graduate, a proud company member of Barrel of Monkeys, and a hopeless Cubs fan. Geoff would like to thank Lynn Baber and Jon Jory for this wonderful opportunity.
Wendy Robie (Mrs. Jennings) most recently appeared in Float with About Face Theatre. Other Chicago credits include Richard III, Private Lives, Hamlet, and Hecuba (Chicago Shakespeare); Mother Courage (Steppenwolf); Trojan Women (Goodman); A Delicate Balance (Remy Bumppo); Omnium Gatherum, Far Away, The Song of J Robert Oppenheimer and Entertaining Mr. Sloane (Next). International credits include King Lear at the 2007 Stratford Festival of Canada, and Joan Dark with the Linz, Austria 09 Kulturhoupstadt. Regional credits include To Kill a Mockingbird (Kansas City Rep and Arizona Theatre Company), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Phoenix Theatre, AZ), and Les Liaisons Dangereuses and The Little Foxes (Portland Rep). Film credits include Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs and the recently released Were the World Mine. TV credits include Star Trek DS9, Quantum Leap, Dark Skies, Any Day Now, Party of Five. She is perhaps best-known as the eye patch-wearing Nadine on David Lynch's Twin Peaks.
Helen Sadler (Marianne) is very excited to make her Northlight Theatre debut. Recent credits include The Maids (Writers' Theatre); Buried Child, A Taste of Honey and Hyde in Hollywood (Shattered Globe Theatre, where she is an ensemble member); Blasted (A Red Orchid); War (Seanachai); A Deau-si-Deau (Theater Wit); A Christmas Carol (Provision); and Marathon 33 (Strawdog). Film/TV credits include Contagion (directed by Steven Soderbergh), Wednesday's Child, Credits, Keen, Hush Your Mouth, as well as various commercials, voiceovers and audio books. Helen was born and raised in Canterbury, England and trained at Bristol University and The Poor School, London.
Penny Slusher (Mrs. Henry Dashwood) is very pleased to be back at Northlight, where she was last seen in A Life as Dolly Drumm. Most recently, she joined Steppenwolf Theatre's production of August: Osage County in Sydney, Australia this summer in the role of Mattie Fae. Chicago credits include appearances at Writers' (Old Glory, Another Part of the Forest, Bus Stop, The Subject Was Roses), Court (Uncle Vanya, The Importance of Being Earnest, James Joyce's 'The Dead'), Timeline (Weekend), Victory Gardens (Relatively Close), Famous Door (Cider House Rules), Griffin (Picnic, All the Way Home) and many others. Her film work includes What's Wrong with Virginia, Meet the Browns, Grace Is Gone, and Death of a President. Penny is a recipient of a Joseph Jefferson Award and two After Dark Awards.
Emily Tate (Ensemble) is thrilled to be working with Northlight Theatre. Chicago credits: Les Liasons Dangereuses and A Long Fatal Love Chase (SR) (Remy Bumppo), Downward Facing (Dream Theatre), and The Chaos Festival (Point of Contention). Other theatre includes Gaslight at Utah Shakespearean Festival, and Cyrano de Bergerac and A Christmas Carol at Milwaukee Repertory Theater. She was a member of the 2006-2007 Acting Apprentice Company at Actor's Theatre of Louisville, appearing in Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, The Open Road Anthology, Pizza Theology, and Les Abres Chachent Le Foret. She graduated from Centre College with a B.A. in Dramatic Arts and Psychology.
Jay Whittaker (Colonel Brandon) is happy to return to Northlight after last season's Awake and Sing! Most recent credits include Old Masters (Steppenwolf) and King Lear, Taming of the Shrew and The Madness of King George (Old Globe, San Diego). New York: Frank's Home (Playwrights Horizons) and Rose Rage (The Duke on 42nd St). Regional: Edward II and Tamburlaine the Great (The Shakespeare Theatre Company, Washington D.C.); Shining City (Huntington Theatre Company); and three seasons of Peninsula Players. Chicago credits include: The Wild Duck, The Glass Menagerie, Travesties, Cyrano (Court); Shining City and Frank's Home (Goodman); David Copperfield and Mother Courage and Her Children (Steppenwolf); A Number (Next); Merchant of Venice, Loves Labours Lost, Measure for Measure, and Julius Caesar (Chicago Shakespeare), as well as Henry IV Parts I & II, which were performed at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. TV credits: Prison Break, Early Edition. Film: Let's Go To Prison, Death of a President, Dustclouds.
Jon Jory (Playwright, Director) As the Producing Director at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Jon Jory directed over 125 plays and produced over 1,000 during his 32-year tenure. He conceived the internationally lauded Humana Festival of New American Plays, the SHORTS Festival, and the Brown-Forman Classics-in-Context Festival. He was also the Artistic Founding Director of Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, Connecticut, and he has been inducted in New York's Theatre Hall of Fame. Mr. Jory has directed professionally in nine nations, and in the United States has directed productions at many regional theatres including Washington's Arena Stage, San Francisco's American Conservatory Theatre, Hartford Stage, the McCarter in Princeton, Guthrie Theatre, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He has received the National Theatre Conference Award and ATA Distinguished Career Award. For his commitment to new plays, he has received the Margo Jones Award twice, the Shubert Foundation's James N. Vaughan Memorial Award for Exceptional Achievement and Contribution to the Development of Professional Theatre, Carnegie Mellon's Commitment to Playwriting Award, and the Special Tony Award for Achievement in Regional Theatre. He currently teaches acting and directing at the University of Washington.
Tom Burch (Scenic Design) is thrilled to return to Northlight following A Civil War Christmas, Souvenir, The Lady with All the Answers and The Good War, among others. Off-Broadway: Mistakes Were Made (Barrow Street). Recent Chicago credits: The Comedy of Errors (Court); Scorched (Silk Road); Pirates of Penzance, No Exit, Frankenstein (Hypocrites); The Overwhelming and Return to Haifa (Next); A Steady Rain (Chicago Dramatists and Royal George); as well as shows for Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, A Red Orchid, About Face, ATC, House, and a number of others. Regional work includes shows for Arizona Theatre Co., Peninsula Players, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Cleveland Playhouse and others. He is the recipient of 3 After Dark Awards (including one for Northlight's Red Herring), and three Jeff nominations (one win). Upcoming projects include Woyzeck (Hypocrites), Pony (About Face) and Jukka Linkola's new opera, Rockland, for Pine Mountain Music Festival. He teaches at University of Chicago, and his work can be seen online at www.tomburch.com.
Rachel Laritz (Costume Design) is happy to be joining Northlight for the fifth time after designing Low Down Dirty Blues, A Life, Po Boy Tango, and Better Late. Other regional work include productions at Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Pearl Theatre, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, Remy Bumppo, Court Theatre, Peninsula Players, Timeline, Route 66, Next Act, Chamber Theatre, Renaissance Theaterworks, Skylight Opera and the University of Michigan. Other professional credits include: NBC's Law & Order, American Players Theatre, Chicago Opera Theatre, Garsington Opera (London, England) and the Spoleto Festival USA. Rachel is a recipient of a 2009 Joseph Jefferson Award for Voysey Inheritance. Her upcoming work can be seen in The Outgoing Tide here at Northlight, The Little Prince at Children's Theatre Madison, and The Winter's Tale at Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
Todd Hensley (Lighting Designer) returns to Northlight after recently lighting The Lady with All the Answers, The Good War, A Marvelous Party, and Mitch Albom's 'Tuesdays with Morrie.' His design for A Marvelous Party was also seen in four other cities. Other designs include A Guide for the Perplexed and The Boy's Room at Victory Gardens; Go, Dog. Go! for Chicago Children's Theatre; La Rondine for The Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University; and Carmen for Washington National Opera. He has designed operas for several opera companies including Minnesota, Wolf Trap, San Diego, Skylight, and Chicago's Lyric Opera Center. Todd is a partner with Schuler Shook Theatre Planners, with theatre design projects including Victory Gardens at the Biograph, Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Pumping Station, the Pritzker Music Pavilion, and the renovation of the Seattle Opera House.
Joe Cerqua (Sound Design& Original Music) is a freelance composer, sound designer, vocalist, and producer. Previous Northlight credits include The Cripple of Inishmaan, Visiting Mr. Green, Old Neighborhood, Master Class, and God's Man in Texas, among others . Recent projects include Pinocchio (Deaf West in LA), The Circle (American Players Theatre), In The Next Room (Forward Theatre), Emma (Cleveland Playhouse), Bus Stop (Kansas City Rep), and compositions and performances with the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, with whom he is the Producing Director/Composer in Residence. Joe has composed and designed sound for over 200 productions around the nation including productions for Steppenwolf, Goodman, Court, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Mark Taper Forum, The Alliance, BAM, and National Jewish Theatre, to name a few. His scores and sound designs for Homebody/Kabul, SideMan, Broken Glass, How I Learned to Drive, and Master Class have all enjoyed national tours. Joe is the Supervising Producer for the Music Department at Columbia College Chicago.
Nan Withers-Wilson (Dialect Coach) is a stage voice and dialect specialist whose credits include regional and Off-Broadway theatre, television, and film. She began her life in the theatre as an actress working with director Jon Jory at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven and the Actors Theatre of Louisville and is grateful to Northlight Theatre for creating the opportunity for this delightful, artistic reunion. Nan holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is currently a member of the Theatre Department faculty at Loyola University Chicago where she teaches courses in Dramatic Literature, Acting, Voice, and Stage Dialects. Nan is a member of the Actors' Equity Association and author of Vocal Direction for the Theatre, the first book to be written on how the theatre voice specialist functions as a collaborative artist within the production process.
Laura Glenn (Production Stage Manager) Most recent Northlight Theatre credits include production stage management for A Life. Over the past nine years with Northlight production stage management credits include Souvenir, Better Late (also at the Galway Arts Festival), Retreat from Moscow, Permanent Collection, Cat Feet, Blue/Orange, Mitch Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie, Sky Girls, Rounding Third and A Skull in Connemara. Other credits include stage management for To Kill a Mockingbird, a parallelogram, Superior Donuts, Betrayal, Love Song, I Never Sang for my Father, The Violet Hour, Purple Heart, The Drawer Boy and many others at Steppenwolf Theatre over the past twenty-one years. International credits include Better Late (Northlight) Orange Flower Water and Purple Heart (Steppenwolf) all at the Galway Arts Festival in Galway Ireland; The Man Who Came to Dinner - BITE festival at the Barbican Center in London; and the regional and Broadway productions of Buried Child.
Additional Production Staff
Assistant to the Director Emily Ritger
Production Assistant Jay Koepke
Casting Director Lynn Baber
Dance Consultant Marla Lampert
Dramaturgy Assistant Erik Kaiko
Directing Intern Maggie Burroughs
A world premiere adaptation of Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen's beloved first novel.
Photos (1-3) by Burlingham Productions and (4-19) by Michael Brosilow
Photo GalleryClick on any image to start the slideshow
Northlight Theatre gives modern flair to 'Sense & Sensibility'
March 21, 2011
by Hedy Weiss
In his program note for "Sense & Sensibility," director John Jory's emotionally engaging, ideally cast stage version of Jane Austen's novel, he writes eloquently (and wisely) about the "instructions" he received from the writer whose lifespan (1775-1816) was relatively short, but whose legacy is enduring.
Channeling Austen, he hears her whisper this advice: "Remember how important manners were in holding our little society together. The emotion breaks through the manners, but the manners always reassert themselves. In all the novels, the women have to worry about money, and there are never enough possible partners. [And] in the end, only love is worth writing about, the rest is simply a matter of detail."
Jory's Northlight Theatre world premiere production beautifully heeds all these reminders. What he and his exceptional actors add to the mix is a freshness, speed and immediacy that, while always in sync with the humor, sentiments and manners of Austen's late 18th century English country-and-city society, gives the storytelling a contemporary energy that is downright irresistible. There is plenty of style here but not a hint of affectation or archness. The production flows like an effortlessly danced gavotte, finding just the right balance between formality, playfulness and the real pain that invariably accompanies love and hope.
As is frequently the case in Austen novels, "Sense & Sensibility" homes in on a family that has lost its financial independence and property just as the daughters, who are of marriageable age, must find mates who will assure their futures.
Elinor Dashwood (Heidi Kettenring, a superb actress, whose musical theater work clearly gives her an impeccable sense of timing) and her younger sister, Marianne (the petite, fiery, English-bred Helen Sadler, who inhabits her character to perfection), have been left more or less homeless after their father dies. Their older brother John (deft work by Si Osborne), strongarmed by his shrewish wife (Franette Liebow is deliciously selfish and controlling), leaves his mother (Penny Slusher) and his sisters to more or less fend for themselves. And so they do, with a little help from relations.
Elinor, wise, discreet, forgiving and quietly passionate, falls for the shy but seemingly forthright Edward Ferrars (an ideally tuned Geoff Rice), who would prefer to be a pastor than a member of Parliament. Marianne, 17, is full of youthful impulsiveness and feverish passion - a wild, unapologetic romantic who quickly falls for Willoughby (the easily dashing Greg Matthew Anderson), an altogether charming cad, while shunning the more sober attentions of a slightly older man with a complicated past, Colonel Brandon (Jay Whittaker, an actor so good he is all but unrecognizable from play to play).
As Elinor so memorably explains it all when the brokenhearted Marianne is felled by a near-fatal fever: "She is the victim of expectations." Like all the characters in Austen's story, she also is the victim of circumstances.
There is excellent work by Wendy Robie (as an irrepressible matchmaker); Diane Mair (as a deperate young woman hellbent on finding a husband); V Craig Heidenreich (as a voluble country squire); Ginger Lee McDermett and Emily Tate. And Jory (the longtime former producing director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville) never lets the emotional tension drift while remaining true to Austen's keen sense of tone and behavior.
Tom Burch's airy design - a handsome doorway and a free-floating arc of plaster molding - is period perfect yet modern. Rachel Laritz's exquisitely simple Regency-style costumes are ready for mass-marketing at Anthropology. And Joe Cerqua's incidental music is lovely. The production lives up to its title in every way.
Read the review on ChicagoSun-Times.com>
Adaptation makes perfect sense - without narrator
March 22, 2011
by Chris Jones
Nothing was more perilous for the 19th century heroine than the combination of good breeding and a lack of ready cash. "She can't live on her interests," it is wisely remarked in Jane Austen's "Sense & Sensibility," a novel about love that never forgets for a moment the perennial truth that the more thousands that lie in one's hope chest, the better one's hopes.
Although written while Austen was at a tender age and flawed in the eyes of the some, her 1811 novel (pre-"Pride and Prejudice") is one of her more appealing compositions. It's an exploration of sisterhood that manages to be both intensely intimate - it was likely based on Austen's own relationship with her sister - and clear-eyed in its pondering of whether you should place your personal stack of chips in life on the space marked "stay sensible" or the one marked "let it rip." Although she tries to be even-handed with her tale of deliberative Elinor and impetuous Marianne (different in all ways except for their lack of funds, their desire for a good match and their mutual big love), Austen was on the side of the risk taker. I say they both have their pluses and minuses.
With his truly excellent new adaptation of the novel for the Northlight Theatre, where this world premiere opened Sunday night, Jon Jory takes the best of both approaches to life and art. After about half an hour, it suddenly hits you that Jory, the former head of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, is managing to dramatize this complex tale without recourse to a narrator. That may not sound like a big deal, but the vast majority of adaptations of the narrative works of Austen, or the Bronte sisters, find it much easier to stick one of the characters at the front of the stage and have them either spill their inner feelings or summarize a few minor scenes that there is no stage time to present, or both. You can take care of entire chapters that way.
Jory sets himself a much harder, self-directed task: theatricalize those inner feelings and tell the story in 150 minutes, but remain true to the novel in such a way that Austen fans will appreciate. He achieves this quite magnificently, mostly through a combination of keeping the story moving as it floats across southern England and the various suitors ebb and flow, and very cleverly skipping ahead in scenes so that we get to the good stuff. He knows when to wallow, and when to dip in and out. Time and again, Jory collapses time in a way that surprises you - and that varied piece keeps the action intensely arresting throughout.
This premiere production is shrewdly cast, with Helen Sadler immersing herself in Marianne, and showing us a girl whose body likes to walk though any open door - and then run away again mad - long before her brain has come to a decision. Sadler energizes the show and also contrasts appealingly with Heidi Kettenring's Elinor, whom Kettenring imbues with a passionate heart and a surging self-doubt. Most important of all, the two sisters feel joined at the emotional hip throughout - when Sadler's Marianne takes ill, Kettenring's sensible face is suddenly wracked with pain. It's a reminder that even the sensible are often floored by the messiness of life.
The various dudes work well too. Jay Whittaker is a deliciously repressed (and, in the early stages, cleverly ambivalent) Colonel Brandon, while Greg Matthew Anderson's Willoughby is a very telling exploration of how power can panic. And there's a strong company of supporting players, including the quirky Diane Mair and the rock-solid Penny Slusher, Wendy Robie and Si Osborne.
You get the sense in the second act that Jory is going for a Chekhovian sensibility - a kind of Two Sisters, if you like, stuck in a Devon cottage and dreaming of London society. That works to a point - it works as far as the actors are concerned - but the relationship between the action and Tom Burch's setting is tough to unpack. Burch has created a sparse, emblematic, rather contemporary design, featuring a flown corner piece, a set of doors and a kind of backdrop cutout with a moon, or a planet, that put me in mind of an image in Nicholas Hytner's famous revival of "Carousel."
I'm sure great thematic ideas (and maybe budget restraints) were in play here. And one can see the utility of the doors through which the wandering sisterhood of the traveling Austen women must constantly pass, along with their suitors. But the bigger striven-for metaphors, whatever they may have been, just don't pop from this flat visual world. It's as if everybody got stuck in that quagmire between simplicity, period felicity and symbols, metaphoric and moderne.
As both Elinor and Marianne well know, whichever choice you make in life and art, you may as well go all the way. Before life and lovers bare their fangs.
Read the review on ChicagoTribune.com>
Fine Austen adaptation features a terrific cast
March 24, 2011
by Tom Witom
"Sense and Sensibility," published in 1811, marked Jane Austen's debut as at novelist and, to her legions of admirers, established her peerless reputation as a writer.
Now playwright and director Jon Jory has given Austen fans another way to enjoy their favorite author.
Jory has done a masterful job of bringing "Sense and Sensibility" to the stage at Northlight Theatre with a contemporary adaptation that offers fresh insights into the classic. An old hand at such work, Jory previously adapted Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" as well as other literary gems including "Anne of Green Gables" and "The Gift of the Magi."
In a program note to the play, Jory described how he imagined Austen cautioning him about inventing lines. "What a wonderful ear for dialogue she had, and how shrewdly she strings out and pays off her stories," he wrote.
Within about a two-hour span, Jory's adaptation manages to breathe life into the passionate characters that populate Austen's novel and capture its involving plot.
The story, which takes place in various locations in England, focuses on Elinor and Marianne, two unmarried daughters of the widowed Mrs. Henry Dashwood. The women find themselves in financial uncertainty after old Mr. Dashwood died and left the bulk of his estate to John, his first wife's son. And neither John nor his parsimonious spouse are inclined to share much of the inheritance.
Elinor, the sensible sister, and Marianne, her more impulsive younger sibling, wonder how the lack of a family fortune would affect their chances for landing suitable husbands.
However, finding potential suitors doesn't seem to be a challenge. The problem each faces is connecting with an honest, unencumbered and decent would-be mate. In the end, their road to happiness proves bumpy and full of detours.
Jory has assembled a terrific cast, led by Heidi Kettenring, who infuses the role of Elinor with a quiet intensity, and Helen Sadler, as Marianne, a dewy-eyed romantic.
Complementing them are standout performances by Greg Matthew Anderson as the two-timing Willoughby; Geoff Rice as the secretive Edward Ferrars; Jay Whitttaker as the reticent but persistent Colonel Brandon; Jordon Brown as the opportunistic Robert Ferrars; and Diane Mair as Lucy, a gold-digger.
There's good work, too, by Si Osborne, V. Craig Heidenreich, Franette Liebow, Penny Slusher, Wendy Robie and Ginger Lee McDermott.
Give credit also to scenic designer Tom Burch for his wise decision to go with a minimalist set. On stage are benches, a freestanding door and few other props -- just what's necessary to provide a suggestion of place and time. Such simplicity makes it easier for the script's well-chosen words to guide the audience's imagination in keeping up with the rapidly shifting scenes.
Read the review on PioneerLocal.com>
Sense and Sensibility at Northlight Theatre:
Jon Jory crosses Austen city limits with a solid, sensible adaptation.
TIME OUT CHICAGO
March 23, 2011
by John Beer
Jane Austen turned her hand to dramatic adaptation on at least one occasion; her only surviving dramatic work stages scenes from Samuel Richardson's novel Sir Charles Grandison, most likely for private performance. So the novelist would likely approve of Jory's efforts, which deftly turn her 1811 fable about the Dashwood sisters into a quick-moving and sprightly comedy. The adapter wisely forgoes any attempt to transfer Austen's inimitable narrative voice, trusting in her canny sense of character and incident to convey the story's wry insight and emotional depth.
The Northlight production is not without missteps. While Kettenring plays earnest Elinor with a grounded authority, the willowy Sadler, though physically right for the part, has a brooding sharpness better suited to a Brontë heroine than the fanciful Marianne. And Tom Burch's set, which could have been poached from a '70s production of Twelfth Night, sits awkwardly between representation and abstraction. But the production also boasts a rich panoply of supporting performances, including Wendy Robie's lovably meddlesome Mrs. Jennings, Whittaker's stalwart Colonel Brandon, and a fine comic turn by V. Craig Heidenreich as the bluff Sir John Middleton. The play never quite escapes its native Masterpiece Theater sensibility, but it's still a sensible choice for Austen's numberless fans.
Read the review on TimeOutChicago.com>