Can Bedlam Productions turn one of Austen’s darkest stories into an intimate theater experience filled with love, laughter, and lunacy?
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Regency Stage Adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility
Welcome back another post from my blog event,“Beyond ‘Pride & Prejudice,’: The Other Side of JAFF”, where I am sharing reviews and giveaways of variations and adaptations based on Austen’s other works. Today I am thrilled to review Bedlam Productions’ stage performance of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility .
“Hey, Sheila, do you want to see a show?” I asked my generous JAFF friend one day this past spring. Luckily, she obliged me and before we knew it, we met each other for the very first time in NYC and attended Bedlam’s wild and crazy adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense & Sensibility, which has earned nominations from the Lortel, Drama League, and Off-Broadway Alliance Awards.
Bedlam’s goals are as follows on their website page:
Committed to the immediacy of the relationship between the actor and the audience, Bedlam creates theatre in a flexible, raw space and is interested in contemporary reappraisals of the classics, new writing, and small-scale musical theatre.
Storytelling is paramount to us and the theatre we make always includes the audience in the story. We believe that innovative use of space can collapse aesthetic distance and bring the audience into direct contact with the dangers and delicacies of life.
Finding ourselves situated within the narrow confines of Bedlam’s theater, we certainly sensed the intimacy and the anticipation shared throughout the theater as the actors and actresses prepared for the show behind rows of lattice and dim lights. Once we were seated in our chairs, which for the back row seats are high stools, we were snugly seated next to one another and throughout the show, were able to become well-versed with the other viewers’ reactions to each scene.
With great humor and imagination, from the infamous scene where Mr. Dashwood, and his snide and calculating wife, Fanny, lay in bed and decide the “appropriate and fair” amount of money to settle on the Dashwood ladies, the play takes off in a very similar manner to Emma Thompson’s 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility. From this scene on, the story of the Dashwood ladies and their entrance into genteel poverty is told with lots of overt humor alongside moments filled with quiet, reflective contemplation that keeps the story solidly in line with Austen’s own vision for this story.
To balance the somber and serious themes that resonate throughout this story, Bedlam’s production inserts humor into their show by exhibiting their knowledge for Austen’s own penchant for irony and wit by drawing attention to those humorous moments through a mix of slapstick comedy, playful dialogue, and original stage sets. I will never recall the scene where Robert Ferrars shares his emphatic love for a cottage without thinking about this scene from Bedlam! If I loved this scene less, perhaps I would say more, but viewers should experience its humor for themselves.
As the characters traversed between the stage and the nearby backstage areas, the show never lost a moment of its momentum. Costumes were often changed before our eyes, and typically without viewers even detecting the process. The chemistry between the characters was lively and energetic. One could sense their love and utter enjoyment of performing for the audience and their deeper understandings in regards to Austen’s story was consistently intact throughout the show.
There’s a terrific sense of community communicated throughout the story and this sense of community, gossip and scandal is brought to life with the effortless movements of furniture, characters, and displays throughout the show. The one criticism we had was the casting of Elinor; she’s wonderful in the role but appears to be older than her mother, Mrs. Dashwood. Nearly everything in the show is placed on casters, creating this energy and graceful flow from scene to scene and sometimes, even between dialogues, which makes everything move at a pace that keeps viewers engaged with the show for the entire performance and allows them to gain a terrific sense for how everything in the story works together to depict the morals, values, and intentions of Austen’s story.
The show recently resumed its scheduled showtimes and will run until October 2, 2016. Bedlam hopes to eventually run shows based on all of Austen’s major six works, in the order of their publication. The early word on the Pride & Prejudice screenplay is very positive. For Austen lovers who find themselves close to lots of good roads near NYC, I would highly recommend attending this first Austen adaptation through Bedlam Productions. Perhaps I’ll see you there this summer when I attend the show one more time. I would also recommend enjoying a delicious meal with a lovely friend afterward, to savor the story and to share the laughter once more time! Thanks for meeting me, Sheila!
The NY Times has named it as a Critics’ Pick and their review is just splendid!
For more information:
The Gym at Judson
243 Thompson St.,W. Village
Category Off Broadway, Comedy/Drama, Play
Runtime: 2 hr. and 15 min.
Credits Written by Kate Hamill, based on the novel by Jane Austen; Directed by Eric Tucker
Cast Laura Baranik as Fanny Dashwood/Lucy Steele, Jessica Frey as Margaret Dashwood, Kate Hamill as Marianne Dashwood, Edmund Lewis as Colonel Brandon, Andrus Nichols as Elinor Dashwood, Jason O’Connell as Edward Ferrars, John Russell as John Dashwood/John Willoughby, Samantha Steinmetz as Mrs. Dashwood/Anne Steele, Stephan Wolfert as Sir John Middleton and Gabra Zackman as Mrs. Jennings
Opened: February 14, 2016
Closing Date: October 2, 2016
It’s giveaway time!!! I have this beautiful 22L x 14W show poster to giveaway to one Just Jane 1813 reader with a U.S. or Canadian mailing address. Please leave a comment below this post by midnight ET on June 30th. The winner will be announced on this blog on July 1, 2016.