Guest review: UAA’s Sense and Sensibility

photo from the UAA Theatre and Dance Dept.

photo from the UAA Theatre and Dance Dept.

By Sarah Evans

I’m obsessed with Jane Austen. For those who know me, they might say this obsession is a truth universally acknowledged. Whether it’s her novels, film adaptations of her novels, BBC mini-series about modern-day people traveling back through time (and dimensions, I guess) to end up in one of her novels, it doesn’t matter—I love them all. Naturally, when I heard UAA was putting on Sense and Sensibility I reserved tickets posthaste.

Now this is where this review gets tricky. I’d like to say you don’t have to be obsessed with Jane Austen to enjoy this production of Sense and Sensibility, but I really don’t have much to base that off of, do I? I’m sure a love for Austen helps, but I don’t think it’s imperative.

There were a few performers who stole the show. Alison Anteau plays Fanny Dashwood, the social-climbing, heartless sister-in-law to the Dashwood sisters. Anteau does a phenomenal job embodying Fanny; though she’s one of the closest things Austen wrote to a villain, Anteau provides comic relief while somehow seeming endearing. Grace Hawkins also breathed life into her character, Mrs. Hawkins.  She brought energy to the stage, and kept the pace of the play moving right along. Austin Roach is quite charming as Edward Ferrars, and though his character is shy and reserved, it is easy to see why all the Regency-era ladies are falling for him.

There are frequent scene changes, as one obviously requires airing out of doors in as many different manicured gardens and rolling hills as possible. I liked the way this production masterfully and creatively handled the challenge of so many different settings; a picture gallery is projected on the scrim, allowing each framed picture to enlarge and depict another location. As the show is already long, this cut down on time between scenes, and was visually interesting.

Now, in an effort to put myself in the shoes of people who don’t care for Austen, there are a few downsides to the production. The things I didn’t like were… actually, it was the shoes. There was something about Mrs. Henry Dashwood wearing stilettos (that looked like they were from Target) that pulled me completely out of the atmosphere the play was trying hard to create. No respectable Regency-era woman would wear shoes like that! Or the robin’s-egg-blue high-heels worn by sensible Elinore? This could not be born! The costumes were one of the disappointments of the show.  There was no cohesion, the majority of them looked sloppy, and almost everyone had inappropriate hems (which is why I picked up on the unsuitable footwear).

The show does run long, but it is worth it for a chance to escape into Jane Austen’s England, and to support local art. Just try not to mind the shoes.

Sense and Sensibility
February 22 through March 10, 2013
UAA Mainstage Theatre, Fine Arts Building
Fridays/Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Buy tickets here

Sarah Evans is a writer and educator living in Girdwood, Alaska. She is an Anglophile of the highest order and visits England as often as possible. She has a background in film studies, theater and teaching Social Studies to middle schoolers. 

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