In Play Reviews

In Kate Hamill‘s stage adaptation of the Jane Austen novel Sense & Sensibility, now onstage at Clackamas Repertory Theatre, the play opens with a corpse.

Olivia Shimkus and Debbie Hunter Kerns in Sense & Sensibility at Clackamas Repertory Theatre. Photo by Sam Ortega.

Poor Mr. Dashwood has expired unexpectedly, leaving Mrs. Dashwood (Debbie Hunter Kerns) a widow, and the daughters Marianne (Molly Bowman) and Elinor (Kailey Rhodes), and the much younger Margaret (Holly Wigmore) kicked out of the marriage game. For, you see, they also are penniless. Their elder brother John Dashwood (Alex Fox), who inherited their father’s substantial estate, was going to give them each 1,000 pounds, which would have allowed them a decent living. However, his wife Fanny (Olivia Shimkus) had other ideas.

Thus, the Dashwood females are banned to a cottage. A couple of local males–Colonel Brandon (Tim Blough) and Edward Ferrars (Sam Levi)–are interested, and poke their noses in from time to time. Very soon, however, complications of the romantic sort arise, or it wouldn’t be Jane Austen. Several scandals erupt, and Mrs. Jennings (Mark Schwahn) does her best to fan the flames of any such event, real or imagined!

This is a beautifully written and beautifully staged period piece that, thanks to the playwright’s take on the story and director Karlyn Love’s deft touches, maintains a playful mood throughout and at times is downright hilarious. With the exception of Molly Bowman and Kailey Rhodes, all of the actors play

Mark Schwahn, Kailey Rhodes, and Todd Van Vorris in Sense & Sensibility at Clackamas Repertory Theatre. Photo by Sam Ortega.

several roles, including those of horses, carriages, and dogs! Scenic and lighting designer Christopher D. Whiten has created a simple yet effective geometric set onto which period furniture and other props (Deb Dahling and Jennifer Whitten) are added as the need arises. And the costumes by Sydney Dufka, also simple, are just right.

Amid all the fun, Jane Austen’s novel and Kate Hamill’s play show very clearly the position of women in society during late 18th Century England, the vestiges of which are still with us today. As director Karlyn Love points out, the story’s title combined with the  personalities of Elinor (the sensible one) and Marianne (the sensitive one) show two women in need of balance as well as husbands. Hamill’s brilliant interpretation of this classic story will hopefully inspire a bevy of new Jane Austen fans.

Sense & Sensibility is one of three plays presented annually by Clackamas Repertory Theatre, and may be seen at the Osterman Theatre at Clackamas Community College, 19000 Molalla Avenue, Oregon City 97045. The play runs through July 22 and is suitable for all ages.


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