“Sense and Sensibility” makes no sense, but complete sense

Written By Erin Yudt, Editor Elect

This past week and weekend the play “Sense and Sensibility,” based on the 1811 novel by Jane Austen, was put on at the playhouse. As with every show I see, I knew basically nothing about the story before I saw the show. I knew that this novel was a classic, though I tend to be disappointed by classics. However, I would give the play a solid 7.6 out of 10.

“Sense and Sensibility” tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor and Marianne, as they come of age. After their father dies, their family moves, leaving behind past lovers and finding new ones and other challenges along the way. “Sense” means good judgment, wisdom, or prudence, and “sensibility” means sensitivity, sympathy, or emotionality. The main theme, I believe, is the danger of excessive sensibility. Austen is concerned with the prevalence of the “sensitive” attitude, which emphasizes the emotional and sentimental nature of people rather than their rational thoughts and behaviors. This overly sensitive attitude is a great struggle for Elinor, who is always trying to keep the peace and be respectful, and causes her great emotional turmoil in the end. It is not until the end of the novel and play, after her sister and family are in better places, that she finally follows her heart. While it does work out for her in the end, I think the story stresses there might not ever be a second chance and that it is important to follow your heart in the moment, or YOLO if you will.

As for our adaptation of the play, I think it was a little hard to follow in the beginning, as some of the side characters played other roles as well, and it took me some time to adapt to the humor of the play. There was great stress on how overly sensible the characters were being, but I just did not find it all that funny. However, I did love the group of about five side characters that were the family’s housekeepers. They followed the characters around throughout different scenes and situations, trying to hide in the background and failing miserably, but the main characters never addressed them. There was a scene where the sisters were out in the garden and the housekeepers pretended to be apple trees, which was impressive due to how long the characters held still with their arms up. The sisters even picked apples from the housekeepers’ hands but never acknowledged that they were people and not trees. In this way, the housekeepers serve as a metaphor for the major flaw of the main characters:  the answer to all the characters’ problems is  right in front of them, but they are too sensible to see it. 

I also really loved the modern elements throughout the play and found these to be the most humorous. There was a small fight scene and one of the housekeepers came out eating popcorn, took a video of the fight, and then took a selfie with the people fighting in the background, again showing how ridiculous this action is because one should naturally try to help break up the fight. During one of the party scenes, hip hop music plays in the middle of a classical piece and all the characters stop the waltz, throw it back a little, then resume abruptly when the classical music starts again. All the characters were wearing shoes and accessories from today as well which gave great contrast to the fancy dresses and waistcoats. 

Overall, I would say the best way to describe “Sense and Sensibility” is that it makes no sense but complete sense at the same time. It makes sense how the characters act for the time period, but it makes no sense as to how and why society acts this way, being so overly sensible. I think society has come a long way obviously since the 1800s, but I think there are still themes that relate to today. I think our generation as a whole is much more methodical about most aspects of our lives, but it is okay to let loose and have fun at the same time, which “Sense and Sensibility” expresses.