When one thinks of Jane Austen adaptations, one recalls the period pieces created by film makers and television producers -- lovely period settings and costumes inhabited by British actors. Works that emphasize the narrative of intelligent women seeking appropriate, somewhat rebellious mates. Often they lose Austen's wry wit, though Whit Stillman's recent LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP is laugh out loud funny. Bedlam's stage version of Austen's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, adapted by Kate Hamill and directed by Eric Tucker, is nothing like the pretty Ang Lee film version. In the Spartan confines of The Gym at Judson with the audience on two sides of the playing area, Bedlam gives us Austen on speed. The show begins with the actors in contemporary dress dancing to a contemporary tune as if this were a party. Gradually the music changes as the actors transform into early 19th century characters dancing at a very different, more proper sort of social function. In a sense, the dancing never stops. Characters, along with furniture and set pieces (on wheels), whirl around the stage gossiping to each other and often to us in the audience. The production is one big dance. Ten actors take a variety of roles, sometimes within the same scene. The result is both immensely entertaining and a fitting twenty-first century homage to Austen. It is also very timely. This SENSE AND SENSIBILITY is about gossip and misinformation as is much of our lives in the internet age.
The acting by this fine ensemble is a lively blend of period and contemporary. There are a few moments when the comedy gets a little too broad, particularly when the actress in question is literally in your face or on your lap, but over all, this is one of the most delightful evenings of theater I have seen in the past few seasons. The costumes look like they came out of a trunk in someone''s attic, but that fits the style of the production.
One friend of mine has seen Bedlam's SENSE AND SENSIBILITY three times. It is the most enjoyable production in New York right now. I eagerly await Bedlam's next production.
SENSE AND SENSIBILITY. The Gym at Judson Memorial Church. August 2, 2016.