Sense and Sensibility hits the spot

Elinor+Dashwood+%28Emily+Berg+%28%E2%80%9824%29%29+listens+intently+as+Lucy+Steele+%28Sydney+Becker+%28%E2%80%9824%29%29+reveals+she+is+engaged+to+the+man+Elinor+was+interested+in.+The+plot+of+Sense+and+Sensibility+is+largely+established+and+supported+by+rumors+and+gossip%2C+which+made+the+plot+difficult+to+follow+at+times.+Other+cast+members+are+seen+behind+Elinor+and+Lucy%2C+eavesdropping+on+the+conversation.+%E2%80%9CWhen+Marianne+got+together+with+the+Colonel+was+really+astonishing.+My+friend+just+yelled+%E2%80%98shen+me%3F%21%E2%80%99+None+of+my+friends+expected+it%E2%80%9D+Elaine+Tang+%28%E2%80%9824%29+said.+%28Jamie+Zeng+%28%E2%80%9923%29%2C+Emily+Berg+%28%E2%80%9924%29%2C+Eleanor+Hong+%28%E2%80%9924%29%2C+Joy+Li+%28%E2%80%9924%29%2C+Sydney+Becker+%28%E2%80%9924%29%2C+Annie+Han+%28%E2%80%9924%29%29.+

Jasmine Wan

Elinor Dashwood (Emily Berg (‘24)) listens intently as Lucy Steele (Sydney Becker (‘24)) reveals she is engaged to the man Elinor was interested in. The plot of Sense and Sensibility is largely established and supported by rumors and gossip, which made the plot difficult to follow at times. Other cast members are seen behind Elinor and Lucy, eavesdropping on the conversation. “When Marianne got together with the Colonel was really astonishing. My friend just yelled ‘shen me?!’ None of my friends expected it” Elaine Tang (‘24) said. (Jamie Zeng (’23), Emily Berg (’24), Eleanor Hong (’24), Joy Li (’24), Sydney Becker (’24), Annie Han (’24)).

On the opening night of the romantic comedy Sense and Sensibility, excitement and anticipation were palpable. The chatter from the awaiting audience buzzed as I was greeted by nervous, fast-talking technical theatre crew members motioning me to my seat. The stage of the Liu Cheung theater stood lonesome for more than a year, but crisp voices of the performers soon broke the heavy silence.

What would grace the stage, you ask? Love and heartbreak, gossip and truth, candles and flowers, historical floor-length dresses and hats and tails, and lots and lots of chairs on wheels.

One thing to note is that Sense and Sensibility is a long play, close to two and a half hours. The story line is also somewhat complicated to follow; as is typical for the era, the story involves a lot of gossip, country homes, city homes, dinner parties, chamber music, engagements, but most importantly, tons of familial relations. Everyone seems to be the other’s brother or sister, and then to mess up the order you already have in your head, some random person with no relations will show up. All these details are difficult to keep track of, especially if you are not familiar with the story already.

“I was a little bit confused, a lot of it confused…,” Julia Fenner (‘23) said.

Other students, however, were able to keep track.

“I could follow the plot without much effort,” Roy Zhang (‘22) said.

Perhaps Roy is just smarter than me.

But your concentration is well rewarded with humor. Not only is the script quite funny, but the directing was extremely well done, keeping the audience engaged during longer scenes. I could not believe it when Kylie Osborne, Editor of Technology, wrote how actors rolled on their chairs passionately across the stage. Watching Marianne Dashwood, played by Sofia Centeno (‘22), push her chair across the stage with her tip toes (due to the fact that the chairs were a little too tall for most of the actors to reach their feet to the floor) and cry into Elinor Dashwood’s, played by Emily Berg (‘24), dress shows how good stage blocking can be incredibly comical.

But of course, the actors did an amazing job at bringing the soapy plot line to life. Joy Li (‘24)’s performance of Mrs. Jennings was one of the best parts of the play for me. Other than of course when Gerry Song (‘22) forgot to bring his rolly-chair on stage with him and someone smoothly rolled it to him from the wing. The audience watched, laughing as the chair seemed to appear magically.

Though Sense and Sensibility is a classic tale by Jane Austen, Stefanie Plumley, Chair of the Fine Arts Department, conceived a very unconventional set for this highly anticipated play. Stemming from the fact that the play would need to have many chairs—and chairs are difficult to move quickly—with the help of the sets/props team in the tech crew all the sets were built on wheels.

The set was created using ten chairs, a table, a doorframe, and three wooden lattices. By arranging them in different ways, Ms. Plumley’s blocking transformed the stage into a multitude of different spaces, including a cottage, a carriage, an apartment, a dining room, and a sitting room. This set-up made a play that mostly consists of sitting into an extremely dynamic and visually engaging production.

A great example of how clever Ms. Plumley was with the set and blocking was how actors became the ‘forest’ through which other characters strolled. The conversing characters walked on the spot in center stage, while other cast members walked up and down the stage holding branches and flowers, illustrating trees going by.

The costumes also went along very well with the all-white sets. Each character wore distinct colors, contrasting them with the background and stage and helping the audience distinguish between the many different characters. And staying true to the time in which that story takes place, the men wore hats, and the women wore bonnets. Gosh, I love bonnets.

“I think the tech does not affect the plot in a good or bad way,” said Roy Zhang (‘22), a former member of the tech crew. “It adds in humor when needed, and I think it’s just a funny idea.”

One feature I did not like was when Ms. Plumley’s famous puppet made a debut as Mrs. Ferrars. I felt the puppet was out of place and not that funny. However, other audience members disagreed.
Julia and Roy both said that the puppet was their favorite part of the play.

“But all of the actors were really good [too],” Julia said. “I liked how the same people played different roles. I liked the moving chairs too, that was cool.”

“I think the play is good overall,” Roy said. “This year’s play has more lights and sound designs than the past years. As always, it has good humor. It’s very interactive, because the rolling chairs are unconventional and is not exactly what the audience would assume in this style or era.”

Sense and Sensibility truly launched Liu Cheung’s reemergence into live performance sky-high. This performance hit the spot for me on the Thursday night I watched it. It is safe to say that the fall play has set a high bar for the upcoming winter and spring productions.