Regional Reviews: San Diego
Also see Bill's review of The Last Tiger in Haiti
Mr. Gordon obliged, as did the Globe, which is currently presenting Chicago Shakespeare's charming 2015 world premiere production through August 14. San Diego doesn't get to see much theatre that originates in Chicago, and this production demonstrates why the Windy City is considered to be a great theatre town.
While Emma may have been a prototype for contemporary romantic comedy, Sense and Sensibility is just plain romantic, albeit with elements of melodrama. The story follows the Dashwood sisters Elinor (Sharon Rietkerk) and Marianne (Megan McGinnis) as they attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives following the sudden death of their father. The estate has passed to their older half-brother John Dashwood (David Schlumpf); his wife Fanny (Jill Van Velzer) convinces him that the two should receive a minimal allowance from the proceeds.
As fortune would have it, the plight of the sisters comes to the attention of Lord Middleton (Brian Ray Norris) and his mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings (Paula Scrofano), who offer them use of a cottage on Lord Middleton's estate. Unfortunately, the cottage is some distance away, which means that Elinor will see little of Edward Ferrars (Wayne Alan Wilcox), a tongue-tied man who has been shyly courting her. Despite her concerns, Elinor makes the move and remains loyal to Edward. Marianne is more impetuous, however, and rejects the attention of Colonel Brandon (Sean Allan Krill) in favor of the younger and more dashing Mr. Willoughby (Peter Saide).
Needless to say, neither Edward's nor Willoughby's situation will be exactly as it appears to the women they are courting.
Mr. Gordon's music complements the romance of the plot. The songs are modest and pleasant, but only two seemed memorable on first hearing: a love ballad to Elinor sung by Mr. Wilcox and a sort of wry Celtic lament titled "Wrong Side of Five and Thirty," beautifully rendered by Mr. Krill.
What makes Sense and Sensibility worth seeing, though, is Ms. Gaines' gorgeous production. Cleverly set on a tiered stage that rises from audience level, Kevin Depinet's scenic design is dominated by a curved sculpture that can be lit (by Donald Holder) to change the mood as well as the elegance of the scene in front of it. With just minimal furnishings moving on and off stage as needed, a multitude of locations is easily achieved.
The cast moves fluidly from level to level, and Susan E. Mickey's costume design facilitates, rather than inhibits, that fluidity. Music director Laura Bergquist elicits passionate singing of a score consisting mostly of solos and duets, and Ray Nardelli's sound design keeps balances mostly in check among the singers and a ten-piece orchestra stationed behind the main playing area.
Maybe it's because I'm seeing the leading performers for the first time, but all seem especially well-suited to their roles. Under Ms. Gaines' direction, they offer insightful portraits of imperfect, occasionally foolish, people who nevertheless don't slip into caricature. The melodramatic elements of the plot play like expected elements of a romantic narrative, instead of the devices they could easily have become.
With several major theatre companies, Chicago provides a home to a bevy of fine actors. That talent is well displayed in this production, and San Diego audiences may well be delighted to discover it.
Sense and Sensibility, presented in association with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, performs through August 14, 2016, Tuesday through Sunday evenings, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at The Old Globe in San Diego's Balboa Park. Tickets are available by calling (619) 23-GLOBE [234-5623] or by visiting www.theoldglobe.org.
Developed with Rick Boynton, Chicago Shakespeare Theater's Creative Producer. Also featured in the cast are Emily Berman, Melinda Gilb, Matthew Keffer, Megan Long, Colin Morgan, James Rank, Connor Sullivan, Elizabeth Telford, and Kelsey Venter.