Jane Austen’s first novel,”Sense and Sensibility,” follows the romantic lives of two sisters of markedly different characters and Kate Hamill’s play adapts it well..In director Eric Turker’s staging, though, it opens with all the actors dressed in white milling around and talking on stage, eventually dancing in a modern way, and then engaging in a dance from, I suppose, the time of Austen. But this rather pointless piece of artiness eventually gives way to Austen’s tale pretty faithfully rendered. Elinor Dashwood (wonderfully played by Maggie McDowell) is admirable: mature, insightful, benevolent and dutiful. She is hesitantly wooed by Edward Ferrars (Jamie Smithson). The cause of this hesitancy is eventually revealed, but Mr. Smithson’s portrayal struck me as not merely hesitant but dorky, so much so that I found it hard to see why Elinor is attracted to him rather than to Colonel Brandon (an effectively emotional yet restrained James Patrick Nelson).. This is quite different from the book. The other, younger sister, Marianne (Erin Weaver) is passionate and impulsive and there are two men in her life, the aforementioned Colonel Brandon, who is significantly older than she, and a handsome, charming John Willoughby (Jacob Fishel). The play capture’s the novel’s wry humor. Near the end, Elinor breaks down and weeps which I do not recall from the novel –though it has been a while since I read it. If my memory is correct, then this is a false step designed, I suspect, to make Elinor seem more “human” as if self control and virtue are unhuman. Despite some flaws, this production provides intelligent entertainment,
“Sense & Sensibility” will be performed at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC through October 30, 2016.