Monday, February 29, 2016

Theater Review Sense and Sensibility -- CT Repertory

Cynthia Darlow and Jenn Sapozhnikov. Photo: Gerry Goodstein

Equity Actors Brighten Up Sense and Sensibility
By Lauren Yarger
The teaching arm of Ct Repertory Theatre’s program comes into play in the current production of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

Kristin Wold, who teaches acting and movement for Shakespeare and Company’s professional actor’s training programs and in the BFA and MFA acting programs at UConn puts her skills to the test directing the large and mostly student cast in Sense and Sensibility, adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan (who also wrote the version of  Pride and Prejudice staged at Ct Rep).

Arlene Bozich stars as the practical Elinor Dashwood (the “sense” part of the title), who with her mother (Natalia Cuevas, too young to play the role, but this is the way of student productions) and her spirited sister Marianne (Susannah Resnikoff) – she’s the “sensibility” part – are forced to find a new home in less elegant surroundings when the patriarch Dashwood dies leaving all of his estate to John (Michael Bobenhausen),
the son of his first marriage. This is early 19th Century England, after all (as depicted in Raven Ong’s costume design).

John’s mean-spirited and snobby wife, Fanny (Meredith Saran), quickly convinces her husband that none of their new-found wealth should be shared with his step family. She makes it known that Elinor’s friendship with Fanny’s brother, Edward Ferrars (a pleasingly dashing and befuddled Darren Lee Brown), will not be allowed to blossom into a romance as he will not be allowed to marry beneath him.

Edward has his own troubles. His formidable mother (Vivienne James) has plans for him away from the quiet country life he would like to lead and expects him to be more like younger socialite brother, Robert ( a perfectly cast Gavin McNicholl).

Elinor believes all of her hopes are dashed when Edward’s relationship with Lucy Steele (Lily Ling) is revealed. Her sister, likewise, suffers heartache when her handsome suitor  John Willoughby (Bryce Michael Wood) abandons her because she has no money. Her only hope for love might be the steady, but less exciting Col. Brandon (nicely portrayed by Curtis Longfellow), whose affection she has ignored.
This particular adaptation of the classic is not one of the best (for my favorite, watch the movie with Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for her brilliant screenplay) and fails to capture the heart of the characters, so the students have their work cut out for them in this whoppingly almost three-hour long production.

What makes the show fun and worth watching is the presence of two acting veterans who light up the stage: Cynthia Darling and Don Noble.

Noble is the Dashwood women’s kinsman, Sir John Middleton, who with his wife (Braley Degenhardt ), offers them a cottage on his property after Fanny sends them packing . Darlow plays his humorous and inappropriate mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, whose roots are less posh than the families into which her daughters have married. Her other daughter, Charlotte (Jenn Sapozhnikov), is as flighty and uncultured as her mother, much to the dismay of her unaffectionate husband, Mr. Palmer (Sam Kebede).

Darlow is a hoot and had me laughing throughout. Her Broadway stints in Billy Elliot, Accent on Youth, Old Acquaintance, Rabbit Hole,Taller Than a Dwarf , Present Laughter, Sex and Longing, Prelude to a Kiss, Rumors, and the original production of Grease! Give her an arsenal of chops to turn Mrs. Jennings into a tour de force.

Noble, who doubles as Elinor and Marianne’s dying father at the outset, lights up the stage with a commanding presence (his credits include Once and End Of The Rainbow on Broadway and the national tour of Mamma Mia! )

Being able to work with and learn from such fine actors makes the CT Repertory program unique and a terrific learning opportunity for students.

Sense and Sensibility runs through March 6 at the Harriet S. Jorgensen
Theatre on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus. Performances are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Select matinees  Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $7 to $30:; (860) 486-2113.

Full Credits:
Production:  By Jane Austen, adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan; Direction by Kristin Wold; Assistant Direction by Molly Hamilton; Scenic Design by Tim Brown, Lighting Design by Margaret Peebles, Costume Design by Raven Ong, Sound Design by Abbey Golec, Music Composition by Colby J. Herchel, Movement Coaching by Marie Percy and Greg Webster; Technical Direction by Ed Weingart, Voice and Text Coaching by Jennifer Scapetis-Tycer. Showtimes Through March 6: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm. Select matinees  Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets $7 to $30:; (860) 486-2113

Arlene Bozich….Elinor
Susannah Resnikoff…. Marianne
Cynthia Darlow…. Mrs. Jennings
Don Noble…. Sir John Middleton/Henry Dashwood
Michael Bobenhausen…. John Dashwood
Darren Lee Brown…. Edward Ferrars
Natalia Cuevas…. Mrs. Dashwood
Sam Kebede…. Mr. Palmer
Curtis Longfellow…. Col. Brandon
Emile Saba…. Baines, Dr. Harris
Meredith Saran…. Fanny Dashwood
Bryce Michael Wood…. John Willoughby
Coleman Churchill…. Thomas, servant
Shavana Clark…. Sophie Grey, servant
Madison Coppola…. Anne Steele
Braley Degenhardt…. Lady Middleton
Vivienne James…. Mrs. Ferrars, servant
Lily Ling…. Lucy Steele
Gavin McNicholl…. Robert Ferrars, servant
Jenn Sapozhnikov…. Charlotte Palmer
Max Helfand…. Phineas

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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