There’s a pattern of late that involves messing with Jane Austen’s work. She left our world 200 years ago, but in the past 10 years or so, there’s been a rash of quirky adaptations, from Bollywood retellings to millennial vlogging to zombies, for heaven’s sake.
What did Jane do to earn such weirdness?
Our friends at IU Summer Theatre are playing it a little more traditionally this week as they present the stage adaptation of “Sense and Sensibility,” her first novel. Now, the title might make you think that these are two good qualities to have — sense and sensibility — but in Austen’s day, “sensibility” was another word for sentimentalism, not a good quality to embrace. Austen’s novel examines the social fabric of the 1790s and presents two strong female protagonists to do so.
“Sense and Sensibility” is set in England in 1811 and tells the story of the Dashwood sisters, Marianne and Elinor. When they travel to a new home, a modest shack owned by a distant relative, the sisters are given the opportunity to find (and perhaps lose) romance along the way. Director Dale McFadden says, “This humorous and suspenseful adaptation brings Jane Austen’s story of romance and marriage to entertaining life on the stage, in the best tradition of a PBS miniseries.”
The script moves quickly, and the costumes will be of particular interest, as costume designer Linda Pisano is a huge Jane Austen fan.
Part of the fascination with Austen’s work is the examination of the social rules of the age, in comparison with our own. The characters lived in a time when unmarried women under 30 were never allowed to be seen with a man unchaperoned. They couldn’t dance more than three dances with one partner. Outward shows of emotion were a sign of bad breeding, including boisterous laughter. Wives were to look the other way at their husbands’ affairs — in every sense of the word — and they never engaged in any sort of activity that could inspire gossip.
Into this world, Jane Austen penned her characters. Did they follow these rules or fly in the face of them? Come see this production and find out for yourself.
If you go
IU Summer Theatre
WHAT: “Sense and Sensibility,” adapted for the stage from Jane Austen’s novel by Joseph Hanreddy and JR Sullivan
WHERE: Wells-Metz Theatre, 275 N. Jordan Ave., Bloomington
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 9, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23; 2 p.m. July 10, 16
TICKETS: $15-$25. Visit theatre.indiana.edu, Ticketmaster, or call 812-855-1103