Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s production of Kate Hamill’s adaptation of “Sense & Sensibility” is two hours of fun and entertainment full of love, longing, heartache, gossip and a healthy dose of homage to the 1980s.
CFRT Artistic Director Mary Kate Burke took on the role of director for this production and brings a fresh and charming vision of Jane Austen’s classic tale of the Dashwood sisters and their quest for love. The production stays true to Austen’s story, but Burke livens it up with an ’80s John Hughes movie vibe. Not that you will see or hear things from the ’80s, but the creative team Burke assembled delivers fresh music and costume styling reminiscent of a time when fashion and music were used as additional layers to the story itself.
You don’t have to be an Austen reader to enjoy the show. The story is easy to follow, and some details are delivered by the gossips. Burke makes sure the action keeps moving, so not a moment is wasted onstage. Scene changes are on-going throughout, making it seem like there is a constant whirlwind surrounding the Dashwood sisters.
After their father’s death leaves them without the financial means to provide a solid dowry, marriage prospects for Elinor and Marianne Dashwood seem to be in danger. In the late 18th-century English society where status and money govern the rules of love, this becomes an obstacle as sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne fall for men who can’t or won’t profess their own affections.
Elinor (Robin Galloway) quietly hides her feelings for Edward Ferrars (Elliott Ross) who is engaged to Lucy Steele (Alason Little). Although he has feelings for Elinor, Edward chooses to honor his engagement, which also causes him to lose his inheritance.
Marianne (Kelsey Milbourn) chases after John Willoughby (Mitchell Stephens), a cad who ditches her when his aunt sends him away after his misbehavior with the ward of Colonel Brandon (Brook North) comes to light.
Colonel Brandon has feelings for Marianne but bideshis time until she recognizes his loyalty and kindness.
The entire cast performs well and is full of comedic energy. There are many zany ensemble moments like actors playing multiple characters – sometimes in the same scene, talking to themselves. There are also a few horse scenes, without horses. If you think humans pretending to be horses is funny, wait until you see them racing in slow motion!
CFRT regulars Libby McNeill Seymour and Greg King round out a cast that also includes Mary Lynn Bain and Michael Thrash. The cast of 10 plays dozens of characters, including the aforementioned horses.
The story might seem a bit complicated, but the production itself is incredibly efficient. It is a treat to see how Burke’s vision of a story with heavy dialogue and detail is brought to life with minimal costumes, set, props and music – all of which enrich the story.
The behind-the-scenes crew should be applauded for providing the sights, sounds and movement that help make Burke’s vision a reality. Brian Adam Kline, whose local directing credits include “The Vagina Monologues” and “Venus in Fur,” serves as assistant director. Bob Lavaelle is the scenic designer. Claudia Stephens is the costume designer. Luqman Brown is the sound designer. David Rawlins is the scenic artist. Their contributions make the production a unique and entertaining experience.
“Sense & Sensibility” runs through April 29 and is appropriate for younger audiences. For more information about the show, contact the box office at 910-323-4233 or visit www.cfrt.org