By Mark A. Leon
If comedy, mayhem, gender role analysis on relationships, family and a tiny bit of inanimate object role playing is what you have in mind, the new Threshold Production of “Sense & Sensibility” will keep you on your toes for a wild night of entertainment.
This adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel reminds us that whether it is 1818 or 2018, the relationship struggles of men and women still exist in very similar ways. This remarkable cast of eleven, who assume thirty (30) different characters, each bring a unique blend of comedy and raw emotional bliss to the stage.
If multiple characters and costume changes were not enough for these actors, playing the roles of flowers, vases and dogs add more well designed silliness to the audience experience.
We hope we have piqued you interest. But wait, there is more.
Set in the countryside of England during the turn of the nineteenth century, this whimsical and poignant story centers around the Dashwood family and more importantly the sister’s Marianne and Elinor, who must face class struggle in the relentless pursuit of love.
During this two hour performance, I began to see the same nervous intuitions, awkward courtship and family pressures we all feel today as we pursue relationships and family. Though the narrative has changed from William Shakespeare to Nicholas Sparks, the themes have remained the same.
This story will open a box of thoughts and emotions that will take the audience down the vulnerable journey of love and romance.
The cast is comprised of local theatre veterans and newcomers that mesh integrally well in this ensemble. Among the stars in the sky, one actress shined brighter than all the rest. Tara Denton Howegner (Fanny Dashwood / Lucy Steele / Gossip) had remarkable presence on stage and almost single-handedly stole the spotlight in each scene she was featured. With her quirky facial expressions, charming overbite and over the top, energetically charged banter, Ms Howegner was a powerful force. Sometimes a role can define and actor or vice versa, but in this case, the actor transformed into the role from the opening harmony to the final bow.
On the other end of the spectrum, stage veteran Paul O’Brien brought a proper pronounced appeal to his role complimented with honor, romance and dignity. As Colonel Brandon, Mr. O’Brien brought balance to the mayhem of the gender and class struggles. With a tall stature, refined British accent and subtle demeanor, the role of the Colonel represented the traditional proper behavior of England masterfully.
There is something to be said for Jimmy Flannery as Mrs. Jennings that words may not be able to explain properly. Crazy perhaps? A little bit zany? Slapstick? Animated comical bliss? I think want to package all that together when describing his performance. Watching Jimmy Flannery in this role is like watching a finally tuned one person improv act that is right on cue. It was a lovely exercise in complete acting release.
Katte Noel, a graduating Theatre Performance major at the College of Charleston, played Marianne Dashwood beautifully. As a young vulnerable beauty crossed between love and the freedom of youth, she showed a wide range of emotion from glee to extreme sadness at a highly competent level. Ms. Noel has tremendous depth of skill and clearly has a long future ahead of her in live theatre.
Finally, Carri Schwab (Elinor Dashwood) represented the glue of this cast. Crossed between economic challenges, unrequited love and mature responsibilities, Ms Schwab carried herself honorably. The area where she really defined her performance came in the unspoken moments, where you could look deep into her soul and see the raw emotion she was feeling. There were several moments, she was stage left or right and sadness painted her face with sheer perfection. Her evolution throughout the performance was so well played out.
Congratulations Director Andrea Catangay, who managed to take eleven (11) actors and transform them into thirty (30) characters, dogs, vases and plants. That was a feat that is truly worthy of praise. Kristen Bushey and Emma Scott teamed up to lead the costume design. The use of color and detail played a critical role in the audience transformation to nineteenth century England.
We must also speak highly of Jennifer Metts, William Griffin, Aaron Andrews, Nat Jones and Madelyn Knight who filled out this cast, all adding a unique flavor to this mix of talented stage performers.
“Sense and Sensibility” is a beautifully energetic performance wrapped in Monty Python inspired comedy that will leave you very satisfied.