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The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

The student news of St. Paul Academy and Summit School

The Rubicon

[PLAY REVIEW] Reputation is everything in Sense & Sensibility

In the end, both the stellar reputation of the US Theater program and the playwrite held up
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MARRY ME? Edward (Bri Rucker) proposes to Eleanor (Savannah Switzer).

In gowns and corsets, waistcoats and breeches, the entire two hours of lines delivered in brilliant British accents, with the help of dialect coach Gillian Constable, Sense & Sensibility elegantly set itself in late 18th-century England.

Sense & Sensibility set out to answer the question: “When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?”

— Lani

Adapted by Kate Hamil and based on a novel by Jane Austen, Sense & Sensibility is about the Dashwood sisters and their widowed mother after their father’s death, leaving them financially challenged. They are forced to move to a humble home owned by their distant relative. The play follows the two eldest Dashwood sisters: sensible Elinor Dashwood (Savannah Switzer) and sensitive Marianne Dashwood (Eleanor Chung Putaski). The two experience heartbreak, love, and societal pressures on women in their new life.

The play distinguishes the dangers as well as the fortunes of either being overly sensitive or sensible through the Dashwood sisters’ characters. Sense & Sensibility set out to answer the question: “When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?”

The play opens with a group of gossipy high-society members—their subject of interest: the death of the Dashwood patriarch and the family’s new lives. Throughout the play, the gossipers peer through windows and hide behind bushes, watching the main characters’ lives play out, reacting to their lives, and commenting on their dilemmas.

Beginning in the house of the Ferrars, where the Dashwoods temporarily stay, Elinor and the awkward and earnest Edward Ferrars (Bri Rucker) have many embarrassing encounters. A memorable one is known as “the table scene” among the cast. At opposite ends of the table, Elinor and Edward write letters with their quills. Just one problem: Edward does not have ink. He tries to reach the other end of the long table for Elinor’s; the music crescendos with each stretch. He fails each time. Elinor pushes the ink to him after witnessing his failed attempts. Laughter bursts from the audience watching this embarrassing encounter between the two characters.

Most of Edward’s scenes consist of him nervously confronting Elinor. Rucker intentionally jumbles their words and stutters, fidgeting with their fingers as they get through their scenes, portraying an innocent and awkward man in love.

Their clumsy encounters come to an end once the Dashwoods move out. They are propelled to do so because Fanny Dashwood (Aarushi Bahadur), Edward’s sister and in-laws of the Dashwoods, indirectly comments on the women being seductresses and preying on Edward.

They move to a much more modest home owned by their distant relative, John Middleton (William Hanna). There, their life is primarily peaceful. Elinor thinks about Edward but pushes it down to be with her family. It takes Marianne almost no time to fall in love with a handsome and charming man, John Willoughby (Coda Wilson), and quickly enter a romantic relationship with him.

Before meeting John, their distant relative, John Middleton, and the very gossipy Mrs. Jennings (Grace Medrano) introduce Marianne to Colonel Brandon (Oliver Zhu), an old and honorable bachelor. However, Marriane has absolutely no interest in him. Meanwhile, Colonel Brandon falls in love with her at first sight, portrayed by the stage going dark and a single light from above shining on Zhu as the music plays louder with sparkling sound effects.

The audience felt the switch from the satirical feeling of Act One as the play entered Act Two, where betrayals and secrets unraveled. Edward turns out to be engaged and has been for a very long time. After seeing Willoughby at a ball, Marianne is neglected and ignored by him after missing him so much.

Marianne, who impulsively follows her heart and quickly jumps into a relationship, realizes her lover is not as great as he pretends to be. She lingers deep in her heartbreak. Putaski screams out her lines of agony while pulling her knees to her chest on a couch, portraying Marianne going hysterical. Marianne’s madness heavily contrasted with her usual playful bursts of emotions. The Huss auditorium was silent as the audience watched Marianne grow lovesick.

Elinor believes Marianne shouldn’t stress so much about someone like Willoughby. He isn’t worth her sorrows; she does not need to feel wrong about him. Marianne responds, “Leave me, hate me, forget me! But do not ask me not to feel!” While lingering over heartbreak might be seen as a weakness, this line captures the strength of Marianne’s sensitivity and humanity.

After news of Edward’s engagement, Elinor feels betrayed but decides she won’t do anything about it. She wants to know the truth but won’t ask because she knows it’s not a good look for her and her family.

Marianne, on the other hand, encourages Elinor to talk to Edward. She reminds her sister that it’s okay to be sad and angry. Marianne even encourages that she should be furious. But Elinor refuses. She asks her sister, “Promise never to speak about the matter with the least appearance of bitterness. Speak civilly and discreetly about it, everyone who may enquire.” Elinor knows that reputation in the society they are in is significant. Therefore, she couldn’t follow her heart or go by her emotions.

Generally, criticism is mainly directed towards being overly emotional, like Marianne, and people need to be more sensible and follow their heads. Elinor’s sensibility allows her to handle situations with poise and elegance. By prioritizing her needs over her wants and being extremely careful, Elinor risks missing opportunities to achieve happiness.

Finally, romance is a big part of the story, but there’s more to it. US Theatre Director Eric Severson wrote in the program that Sense & Sensibility is also about the bond between the sisters. They act as support for each other while they navigate through a patriarchal society that does not let them live life the way they want.

The play was a rollercoaster. There was laughter. Then there was shock and finally a sigh of relief for the happy ending. The production, while inspired by a novel from the Regency Era, is timely. Sense & Sensibility was a lesson well taught and a story well told.

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About the Contributor
Lani Ngonethong, News editor
My name is Lani Ngonethong, she/her. I am a News Editor for the Rubicon Online, and this is my second year on staff. In my free time, I enjoy playing volleyball and badminton with friends and family. I am also learning how to speak Hmong and Lao. I love to play with cats even though I am very allergic to them. I can be reached at [email protected].

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