Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ proves complex, well-played

JOHN BRANDENBURG
For The Oklahoman
Modified: May 15, 2012 at 3:14 pm •  Published: May 15, 2012
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photo - Jennifer Wells, as Elinor Dashwood, with Ian Clinton as Edward Ferrars and Holly McNatt as Lucy Steele in Reduxion Theatre's production of Jane Austen's
Jennifer Wells, as Elinor Dashwood, with Ian Clinton as Edward Ferrars and Holly McNatt as Lucy Steele in Reduxion Theatre's production of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility."
The complex interactions of several families were sometimes hard to follow, but the emotions and performances rang true in a Reduxion Theatre production of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”

From Austen’s 1811 novel, the production directed by Erin Woods, is updated to America’s East Coast in the present day. It was performed Thursday at Reduxion’s Broadway Theater, 1613 N Broadway Ave.

Contemporary costumes and a second act-opening dance scene done in period dress at a costume museum event, plus the intimacy of the theater space, partly overcame the nakedness of the bare stage.

Jennifer Wells was outstanding as Elinor Dashwood, one of three sisters forced to re-locate, with their stepmother, after their father’s death, in a plot device worthy of the opening of a public television series.

Lowkey and convincing, Wells got across Elinor’s desire to serve others — her family and children in low income art programs — then find romance if it comes her way, without compromising her integrity.

Ian Clinton was also understated, but touching as Edward Ferrars, who must clear away quite a few of his own obstacles, and seems just clueless enough about how to do so, before he is free to marry Elinor.

Offering a nice contrast was the performance of Rachael Barry as Marianne, Elinor’s less cheerful and even-tempered, but more romantic, passionate and easily disillusioned younger sister.

Barry conveyed Marianne’s stormy nature as she fell for the wrong man, Willoughby, well played by Timothy Berg, then the right one, Col. Michael Brandon, played with quiet panache by Tyler Woods.