Monday, May 18, 2015

Not a Review: Sense and Sensibility

I recently got to see the Dallas Theater Center's production of Sense and Sensibility... 

Really enjoyed it.  I think it's a clever adaptation that - for once - catches the sometimes nasty edge of Jane Austen's humor and the real and frightening stakes involved with a young woman's reputation and future.  The Dashwood sisters live in terrifying times.  Marry or starve, basically.

Any of you who think Jane Austen is actually, you know, ROmantic, I advise you to read Robert Rodi's Bitch in a Bonnet and Fay Weldon's Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen immediately.  Sooner than that even.

I really did like this adaptation of S&S.  The general idea is that a Greek English chorus of nasty gossips shadowed and commented on the action, peering through windows and pushing characters around.  Cuts and simplifications to story, characters, and themes clarify the threat and strengthen the emphasis on gossip.  Some characters - like Mrs. Jennings who, in the book, has a good heart under her gossipy skin - became simple tattle-mongers.  (Not quite fair.)  In the program a comparison was made to today's ability to ruin a woman's reputation in minutes via Twitter and Facebook.

That's topical - just ask Monica Lewinsky.  In a series of entertaining webisodes called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, this ruining-her-reputation trope (this time from Pride and Prejudice) was translated for the modern day into the release of a sex tape online; in S&S days it sometimes took only writing a letter.

Reputation stuff still does damage.

I have to agree [sorta] with Mary Bennet, when she says: "...we may draw this useful lesson: that loss of [perceived] virtue in a female is irretrievable; that one false step [not necessarily her step, mind you] involves her in endless ruin; that her reputation is no less brittle than it is beautiful; and that she cannot be too much guarded in her behaviour towards the undeserving of the other sex."

Tell'em sister!  Sometimes all it takes is breaking up with that "undeserving" dude...  "Revenge porn" they call it when he then puts all her sexts or too-personal photos etc online.  "Doxing" is when he - or other enemies - reveal all her personal information.  And though men also suffer from these shaming techniques, the victims are generally female.



Because I liked this production, I felt inevitably picky-picky about certain aspects: it's The Designer's Curse.  I'll ignore most of these as too picky to smudge an admirable production.  The set was simple and fitting.  (And, for the Theater Center amazingly! not extravagantly expensive.  Okay, picky, there had to be a better way to bring on London.  Sorry.)  The costumes good, especially the chorus, though there were a few choices I disagreed with.   (Col. Brandon's underwear?)   Lighting good (except that rain).  The acting was good (I'd change a little casting) with real stand-outs as Elinor and Edward, who made the show.

I don't know that this production will convert those who go into the theater thinking Jane Austen is either a) dull or b) mushily romantic... but it ought to.

Well done.

Less than a week to go, so get tickets!  HERE.