SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Exit 22 Productions, BlueShore Financial Centre at Capilano University, until November 24
Photo: Tae Hoon Kim
My Two Cents
I’m never averse to making the trek out to Capilano University to see their student productions. I have great respect for the work put in by the students, and instructors alike (in this case esteemed director Bob Frazer and playwright Michelle Deines). It’s disappointing, then, when a show on the whole doesn’t quite work, but there are some delightful moments, design elements and performances that shine through despite it.
Sarah Cantuba is solid as elder sister Elinor Dashwood, with hugely expressive eyes conveying all the emotion behind her reserved and faultless character. Rachel Jaune gets to have a bit more fun as the wildly excitable and passionate Marianne, Elinor’s young sister, and the relationship between the two of them is the heart of the story. Delphine Menu makes for an excellent Mrs. Dashwood, their mother, while Olivia Ducayen is appropriately plucky as youngest sister Margaret.
Deines has done an admirable job adapting Austen’s novel for the stage, but the proceedings are occasionally dull (and this is coming from an Austen fan). There are a few too many scenes of talky exposition. Dennis Virshilas gives a near-perfect portrayal of the soft-spoken Edward Ferrars, Elinor’s would-be suitor, but the two do not have enough time together on stage to generate much chemistry with each other. By contrast, Chris Ward as Willoughby and Ms. Jaune’s Marianne are electric together, and it’s easy to get swept up in their relationship. There are a few other actors who provide much-needed energy to the proceedings - Riley Orr and Liz Singer as the Palmers, a married couple with very different personalities; Robin Mead as the weaselly John Dashwood; and Sam Awuku-Darkoh as the gregarious Sir John Middleton.
Kim Bothen’s Regency-era costumes are sumptuous, from simple dresses to extravagant gowns, and what an undertaking it must have been to costume a cast of twenty-three. The huge cast of students is there, I suspect, as an opportunity to showcase as many of them as possible, but so many are given very little to do (though they do fill up the ball scenes nicely). The scope of the accents ranges from poor to passable to nearly spot-on. Accents can be tricky, to be sure, and they may just not have had the time to really hone them. Michael K. Hewitt’s lighting, Heidi Wilkinson’s set and Anton Lipovetsky’s soundscape are all strong and immersive, helping to create the setting, but can’t make up a first act that drags even at an hour in length.
Sense and Sensibility is, at its core, a play about women finding strength in one another. It’s a beautiful message and part of what makes Austen’s stories so timeless. Capilano University’s production may feel lacking on the whole, but its heart is in the right place.