Monday, October 31, 2016

So this weekend pasts theatrical outing was to see "Sense & Sensibility" at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre.  The theater itself is house in the complex that is home to the much larger Folger Shakespeare Library and also houses an exhibition space.  As theater's go, it's a rather small one.  Previously, I had only attended poetry readings there: Linda Pastan, Maryland Oliver and Stanley Kunitz.  Ironically, my first play here would not be one written by Shakespeare!  Which naturally is the theatre's mainstay, and comports well with the fact that though small the interior of the theater is embellished to evoke Shakespeare's own famous The Globe theatre from Elizabethan London.

My visit to see the show was on what should have been it's next to last performance this afternoon, and it was in a word--"FUN!!!" Oh my, such Fun! Everything in the production is built upon wheels and it never stops rolling! You cannot keep from getting caught up in the excitement.  The choreography of acting, dialogue, and sets wrapped in lighting and sound effects is a little bit like accepting a ride on a roller coaster. From the first moment the cast starts moving, you strap in and hang on.

The script takes you through what is a rather endearing and complex early 19th century romp--most beloved by so many--in a fashion that honors the story, but also creates something sufficiently new as to be it's own special thing. The actors in this production coalesce with a fine syncopation that reminds me of the best versions of other plays were a set cast embodies multiple roles. Because they are all so wonderful, it's really difficult and easy to site-specific instances of standout moments. Jamie Smithson's electric and audience engaging portrayal of the rakish Robert Ferrars was a tour de force moment of energetic embodiment of the essence of a single character. Lisa Birnbaum had a similarly stealing moment when she portrayed the Dowager Ferrars.

Even the most amazing ensemble needs glue to hold it together and this production was bound by the brilliant performances of Maggie McDowell (Elinor) and Erin Weaver (Marianne) as the Dashwood sisters.
Unfamiliar, but thinking that due to its size there were no "bad" seats, I purchased one on the front row! My view of the stage was rather intimate to say the least...
Mr. Dashwood (James Patrick Nelson) the beginning setting the whole cavalcade of events into motion!

Eating is central to the lives of the characters and here we see the entire company of actors (save one) from left to right names (roles): Michael Glenn (Servant, Horse, Sir John Middleton), Kathryn Tkel (Fanny Dashwood, Lucy Steele), Jamie Smithson (Edward Ferrars, Robert Ferrars), Nicole Kang (Margaret Dashwood), Maggie McDowell (Elinor Dashwood), Erin Weaver (Marianne Dashwood), Lisa Birnbaum (Mrs. Dashwood, Anne Steele, Lady Ferrars), Jacob Fishel (John Dashwood, John Willoughby) and James Patrick Nelson (Mr. Dashwood, servant, Colonel Brandon).

Another full ensemble moment.  The actor in the middle who was present in the previous image was also not present at the performance I attended and her understudy filled in.

Such creative staging!  Here Mr. Willoughby and Miss Marianne Dashwood are out for the ride in the country as other cast members play the carriage, the horses, the forest and the wind!

Lucy Steele confides in Elinor Dashwood spilling the beans about their shared love, and as the conversation rises and falls so to the movement of the chairs in which they sit conveying the intimacy and estrangement of the moment as well as they dizzying confusion and tempestuous betrayal.

In a quieter moment Edward and Elinor come to terms with their complicated lives and destiny.

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