Easily encompassing romantic comedy and social satire, yet transcending both genres with her characteristic gentle emphasis on the wheel of moral karma, Jane Austen is a writer for all seasons when it comes to contemporary revivals, rewrites, and repurposing. This excellent stage adaptation of Sense and Sensibility solves most of the problems involved in getting an Austen novel to fit comfortably onto a stage and into a reasonable theatrical time frame, and it does so without sacrificing the very specific and crucial elements of tone and style that separate the divine Jane from all the 19th-century novelists who are now nobodies.
First honors in this large cast must go to Shae Palic, who brings exactly the right mix of wit and hard-earned wisdom to Elinor Dashwood, the story’s central character, but she is more than supported by a truly splendid ensemble — every member of this large cast appears luminous and distinct in memory. Sierra Wells is terrific as the mercurial Marianne Dashwood, Adam Schroeder renders John Dashwood suitably reprehensible, and Kitty Balay makes Mrs. Jennings come alive as the best London surrogate mother one could imagine. What brings it all together is the intelligence and theatrical imagination of the script, which was cowritten by Joseph Hanreddy, the founding artistic director of Santa Barbara’s Ensemble Theatre Company. Welcome back, Joe!