Dear readers, I bring you news of a profoundly celebratory return to live theatre as South Pasadena Drama took to the boards for a delightful production of “Sense and Sensibility”. For three temperate, autumn, moonlit evenings, the brilliant cast of young actors swept audiences away to 19th century England and into the intrigue and gossip of the Dashwood family et al in a production under the stars. As the lights dimmed opening night, the anticipation was palpable, as both performers and the sold out audience had waited two years for this moment. And we were greatly rewarded. Director Nick Hoffa, technical director James Jontz, and the cast and crew created an enchantingly playful whirlwind of a show that made for a truly magical weekend.
The audience is immediately jolted into the middle of the action as the “greek chorus” of gossips swoosh up to the front row to wildly engage us in, well, gossip! The scandal and intrigue literally rolls as the actors and scenery careen to and fro on wheels, making for an action-packed Jane Austen period piece like you’ve never seen before. A bit rock and roll, if you will, including a sexy sax solo by local cad Willoughby. Your grandmother’s Jane Austen this is not. The Kate Hamill adaptation lends itself to this more modern feel, keenly focused on the sisters’ relationship, but director Hoffa and his cast really pump up the comedy while keeping it all very sweet and sincere. Truly deft direction and ensemble work. The stagecraft, from the upright beds, to the “walking” trees and carriage rides accompanied by a horse and a coconut, are delightfully clever.
We meet and follow the story of the subjects of the current gossip, the newly dispossessed Dashwood sisters, played beautifully by Ava Page and Rena Pau. Their sisterly bond is made evident with Pau bringing a regal restraint to Elinor and Page as charming as she is passionate as Marianne. As their suitors, Levi Srebalus is a jumble of nervous sincerity as Edward Ferrars while Albert Perez dazzles as man about town, Willoughby. I may have heard actual tears dropping as Srebalus, in a moment of pure romance, drops to one knee to finally proclaim his love. Quinn Manza drew the audience in with her dashing performance of the honorable Colonel Brandon, in striking contrast to her engaging turn as ill-natured sister-in-law Fanny. Taylor Calva brings a mature loveliness to the girls’ mother, Mrs. Dashwood, and has a ball as Robert Ferrars while Alexa Morales charms, making the most of her role as youngest sister, Margaret.
Lulu Talesnick splendidly delivers a breathless and boisterous Mrs. Jennings and Romy Rodriguez Malfilatre makes for a strong Sir John, a village doctor, and as a gleeful “club-loving” Miss Morton, complete with disco lighting and flying dollar bills. Speaking of which, the sound design is exquisite, adding, along with the intricate lighting, the perfect enhancement to each painful or heartfelt moment. Every actor on stage, most embody multiple roles, participates in every set change, becomes part of the scenery itself and supports the action at all times; a true manifestation of the word “ensemble”. The aforementioned “gossips” enliven the action at every turn with Franny Knight a stand-out displaying considerable comedic expressiveness. This terrific ensemble also includes a wonderfully wretched Veronica Koutsky as Lucy Steele, the ebullient Audrey Omidi as Anne Steele/Gossip, and strong work from Julia Shadmon as John Dashwood/Gossip, Eleni Terhune as Miss Grey, Solon McDonald as Thomas/Gossip, and Charlotte Dekle as Lady Honeywood. The entire cast captivates in an entrancing, boldly theatrical production that is a feast for the senses in a world hungry for just such an irresistible bash.
Sense and Sensibility is produced by Eugenie Borredon, Kyle Dominguez, Solon McDonald, Kyra Nielsen, Leyton Ramos-Platt for South Pasadena High School Drama Club. Directed by Nick Hoffa with technical direction by James Jontz. Stage manager: Violet Main. Sound: Alice Bock, Z Wechsler. Lights: Jeremy Bruce, Samantha Yang. Stage Crew: Mademline Wernberg. Musical arrangement: Linus Lau. Poster art: Isa Oglanby. Program cover art: Isa Oglanby, Jenny Pietrzik, Caichun Lin. Set Construction: Alice Bock, Jeremy Bruce, Andrew Buenrostro, Kevin Camarillo, Timothy Chang, Giovanni Cruz, Tyler Doig, Alexander Hartleben, Aidan Howard-Rede, Evan Jones, Maggie Ma-Li, Violet Main, Roderick McDonald, Parsa Moradi, Jenna Newkirk, Nicholas Olsen, Leyton Ramos-Platt, Z Wechsler, Madeline Wernberg, Jayson Williams, Samantha Yang.