AP Literature students celebrate Valentine’s Day with “Sense and Sensibility”


photo courtesy of Marie Kanzinger

On February 14, Ms. Bobbie Serensky and her AP literature students saw a performance of “Sense and Sensibility” at the Hanna Theatre.

The play follows the story of the Dashwood sisters who move out of their childhood home after the death of their father. “Sense and Sensibility” has all of Jane Austen’s usual themes as she comedically makes fun of high society while the sisters find romance in relationships that are more complicated than what’s on the surface.

The production, adapted by Kate Hamill and co-directed by Sara Bruner and Jaclyn Miller, takes a more modern approach to Austen’s work. Although the play still takes place in the late 18th century, the set is surrounded by neon props, a gigantic eye in the center of the stage, and a disco ball.

After studying the novel in AP Literature, senior Sarah McCort enjoyed the production’s unique adaptation of the famous novel.

“When I was looking at the pictures of [the set] yesterday I was like, ‘hm – disco ball – okay.’ But overall, once you got there and saw the costumes and the characters, it made sense to incorporate such a creative set,” McCort said.

Senior Ella Snyder, however, felt more conflicted about the set design.

“I’m pretty neutral on the set,” Snyder shared. “It was interesting what they did, but the giant eye in the middle of the floor could be kind of jarring. And because it was a circle, I kept expecting it to be turntable like in a musical. It helped in some ways but hurt in others.”

A fan favorite performance amongst students was Joe Wegner who played both Elinor’s shy love interest, Edward Ferrars, along with the Dashwoods’ nosy friend, Mrs. Jennings. When his characters shared scenes, Wegner ran between costumes held up by his castmates to play both roles simultaneously.

“I thought that performance was very comical and it added more depth to Mrs. Jennings. Usually in the book she’s just very gossipy and that’s like her one thing. But in this, she was comical and caring and gossipy,” Snyder described.

Not only does Wegner play multiple roles, but nearly the whole cast performs different characters throughout the play. Only Maggie Kettering and Ángela Utrera remained the same character throughout the production as they played the two lead sisters: Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Similarly to Wegner, Laura Welsh Berg also performs a gender-swapped character as she portrayed Marianne’s immature yet charming love interest, John Willoughby, along with the selfish sister of Edward Ferrars. 

“I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why they chose that instead of hiring enough actors for everyone to have their own role,” Ms. Serensky shared. “I think to me, that’s the most interesting choice out of the entire play. Let’s pretend money is not a factor – why would you have actors play multiple roles? The fact that they change their clothes on stage adds to the humor of what’s happening. So it’s sort of like this metatheater that’s going on. I would’ve thought it would be hidden behind the scenes. They’re changing their clothes as they’re dancing and just switching jackets and I just thought it was brilliant.”

McCort also enjoyed Wegner’s comical interpretation of the character. The play impressed her as a whole with its energetic performances and engaging story.

“I was expecting it to be stale and boring, but it exceeded my expectations by a thousand due to its humor, its significance, and the actors’ interpretations of the characters we studied,” McCort shared.

Ms. Serensky chose for her class to read “Sense and Sensibility” in order to give her students an opportunity to see a live performance. She was impressed with the production’s appreciation of Austen’s original novel. 

“My favorite thing about the play was that I was so happy that they showcased how funny Jane Austen is,” Ms. Serensky said. “Whenever I say, ‘I think Jane Austen is so funny,’ people are skeptical of what I’m saying. But I’ve always thought that she’s so funny and that play really brought that to life. I was so happy inside about that because she wrote all those books and she never really experienced fame or riches or anything. And then you see this whole theater of people laughing at the ideas she came up with. I just loved that.”