GATHER ALL YE JANE AUSTEN FANS AT UCONN

BONNIE GOLDBERG

The Dashwood sisters of Norland Park, Sussex, England have endured hardships with the recent death of their father and the subsequent loss of their family estate. The reserved and rational Elinor oversees her impatient and impulsive younger sister Marianne as they both cope with romance for the first time. Jane Austen’s beloved first novel “Sense and Sensibility,” adapted for the stage by Joseph Hanreddy and J. R. Sullivan, will be delighting audiences at the Connecticut Repertory Theatre Company at the Harriet S. Jorgensen Theatre on the campus of the University of CT at Storrs until Sunday, March 6.

If you remember the sterling production of “Pride and Prejudice” several seasons ago, you will know to run to get tickets for this new and wildly romantic roller coaster ride. The siblings, now without protection or financial support, seek the arms of suitable gentlemen to find their way to happiness. Their step-brother John (Michael Bobenhausen), at the urging of his greedy and manipulative wife Fanny (Meredith Saran), has forbidden her husband from financially aiding the girls and their nurturing mother (Natalie Cuevas). They are claiming their inheritance and moving in to Norland Park, thus forcing the trio out.

The devoted sisters, brought bloomingly to life by Arlene Bozich as the level headed and optimistic at all costs Elinor and Susannah Resnikoff as the flighty, fantasy and musically minded Marianne, are left to survive on their wisdom and wit. Despite a continual string of monetary setbacks, they happily accept an offer of hospitality from a distant relative, Sir John Middleton, a convivial Don Noble, who with his mother-in-law, Mrs. Jennings, an accommodating Cynthia Darlow, take in the impoverished three.

Mrs. Jennings, who loves the idea of playing matchmaker, introduces a suitable candidate, Colonel Brandon (Curtis Longfellow), to Marianne, but her heart has already been taken by the dashing John Willoughby, a secretive and yet to be revealed scoundrel Bryce Michael Wood. Not to be left out of the love entanglements, Elinor has found herself smitten with Edward Ferrars, a handsomely fashioned Darren Lee Brown. Imagine Elinor’s dismay when a new acquaintance, Lucy Steele, a preening and bubbly Lucy Ling, reveals her secret engagement to Edward. Lucy’s giddy sister Anne (Madison Coppola) blurts out the news in an inappropriate time and place, causing Edward’s controlling and dominating mama (Vivienne James) to disown him and favor her estate to her other son, Robert (Gavin McNicholl).

You’ll need a dance card to follow all the delightfully delicious details, that include Mrs. Jennings’ two well-married daughters Lady Middleton (Braley Degenheardt) and her pregnant Charlotte (Jennifer Sapozhnikov) and her politically careered mate (Sam Kebede). Kristen Wold directs this wonderfully wild jig of a period piece, with colorful costumes designed by Raven Ong, on a simple but tasteful set designed by Tim Brown.

For tickets ($7-30), call the CT Rep Theatre at the Jorgensen, UCONN campus at Storrs at 860-486-2113 or online at www.crt.uconn.edu. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Chase after the long and elegant skirts of the Dashwood girls as they take their first tentative steps, sensible Elinor not the romantic Marianne who gallops, down the garden path to true love. Jane Austen fans, open your hearts to this fine production.

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