Entertainment » Theatre

Sense & Sensibility

by Kilian Melloy
Thursday Oct 27, 2016
Sarah Mass, Cameron Cronin, Marge Dunn, William Schuller Elizabeth Addison, and Kiki Samko in 'Sense & Sensibility,' at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury
Sarah Mass, Cameron Cronin, Marge Dunn, William Schuller Elizabeth Addison, and Kiki Samko in 'Sense & Sensibility,' at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury  (Source:Nile Hawver)

Ever since being required to read "Emma" in college, I have loathed the works of Jane Austen. That's a lesson on how, in one's youth, one can lack an appreciation for finer things. Two things have shaken me out of my habitual anti-Austen attitude, one of them being Whit Stillman's brilliant "Love and Friendship," and the other being Maiden Phoenix Theatre Company's furiously fast and funny production of Kate Hamill's stage adaptation of "Sense and Sensibility," currently raising the roof at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury.

If you're familiar with Austen's oeuvre, it won't come as a surprise that "Sense and Sensibility" is all about society women with little or no source of income to call their own seeking to make a good match and marry well -- for love, or for money, or, preferably for both. In this case it's a pair of sisters, Elior (Anna Waldron) and Marianne Dashwood (Erin Eva Butcher), who -- together with their mother, Mrs. Dashwood (Elizabeth Addison) -- are in financial straits, thanks to the death of their father, for whom Mrs. Dashwood was a second wife, John Cameron Cronin), the son of their father's first marriage, surrenders to the machinations of his grasping wife Fanny Marge Dunn), and withholds all but a pittance from his half-sisters and stepmother.

Erin Eva Butcher and Anna Waldron in 'Sense & Sensibility,' at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury  (Source:Nile Hawver)

Compounding their problems, Fanny makes life so miserable for them that Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters soon depart John's home for friendlier lodgings.

But travails and romantic intrigue follow them. Marianne soon attracts the attention of an older man -- all of 35! -- named Col. Brandon (Cameron Beaty Gosselin). Appalled at the thought of marrying someone so past his prime, Marianne falls instead for the smooth-talking John Willoughby (William Schuller), despite his own comparatively advanced years. But is Willoughby truly as gallant as he seems to be? And can Col. Brandon's sterling character make up for his age?

Meantime, Edward (Dan Prior) -- who has the misfortune to be Fanny's brother -- has long yearned for Elinor. When the two try to reconnect, a complication in the form of a long-standing engagement rears its head.

Given the full-tilt comic energy that the cast brings to the production, under the guidance of director Michael Underhill, there's no room for melancholia, be it sourced in romance or otherwise. The cast --which also includes Sara Mass, Kiki Samko, and Underhill himself -- race around the room, making the entire large space their area of play. The blocking (Samko receives credit as the movement director) is designed to underscore the text's satirical jabs at class and society, and the period-specific costumes, by Erica Desaults, are as cheerily bright as hard-shelled candies. You might need a score card to keep track of who is falling love with (or gulling, or pining after) whom, but you won't stop laughing.

"Sense and Sensibility" continues through this weekend at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. For tickets and more information, please visit http://maidenphoenix.org

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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