Jane Austen was about 19 when she started writing what would become her fist published novel, “Sense and Sensibility.” The romantic novel is a comedy of manners, the manners being those of the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The book often is taught in schools because it is easy to identify its themes, symbols and characterizations. “Sense” means prudence, or good judgment, while “Sensibility” refers to emotion, or sensitivity. In telling its story of the Dashwood sisters, the novel follows the siblings and their mother as they are forced to move from their family home in southwest England to a simple cottage on a distant relative’s property. There they experience life through love, romance and heartbreak.
The Sacramento Theatre Company has mounted a lively, lovely adaptation (by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan) of Austen’s novel. Directed by Shannon Mahoney and starring Lenne Klingaman as Elinor Dashwood (the prudent one) and Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer as Marianne (the sensitive one), the characters also represent the “head” and the “heart” of the individual. Klingaman is quite proper and reserved, while Schmeltzer puts herself out there almost to the point of parody.
Three men vie for the affections of the sisters — John Willoughby (Kevin Gish), Edward Ferrars (Teddy Spencer, who also plays Edward’s brother Robert) and Colonel Brandon (David Campfield). Only two can win, and who loses and why is one of the big shocks and disappointments of the story, though totally appropriate.
Shannon Mahoney directs with precision and elicits excellent performances from each actor, but especially from Ruby Sketchley as Mrs. Dashwood and Mrs. Ferrars and Tara Henry in the dual roles of Fanny Dashwood and Charlotte Palmer. Matt K. Miller is absolutely delightful as Sir John Middleton, who provides the cottage in which the Dashwoods seeks asylum. Miller also serves as dialogue coach to the cast.
This play was originally commissioned by the Utah Shakespeare Festival and is presented here in partnership with the Sacramento Public Library, which will host a special event Oct. 11 to provide more information on Austen’s novel, the period in which the play takes place, and the STC production.
“Sense and Sensibility” runs through Oct. 25 with performances at 6:30pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8pm Fridays, 2 and 8pm Saturdays and 2pm Sundays. Tickets are $38 for adults, $33 for seniors and $15 for students.
For more information, call (916) 443-6722 or visit sactheatre.org.
Photo: The Dashwood women, from left, Mrs. Dashwood (Ruby Sketchley), Elinor (Lenne Klingaman) and Marianne (Lindsey Marie Schmeltzer). Courtesy of Sacramento Theatre Company.