Jane Austen Celebrated in Northlight’s Production of “Sense and Sensibility”

A most agreeable stage adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility” opened March 19 at Northlight Theatre.

The production is commendable for its fidelity to the text and spirit of this esteemed author’s first novel, which, though I should not be so bold as to mention it, was rebuffed many times before its publication in 1811.

Enough of that.

Suffice it to say that anyone who has read or re-read the story of the impecunious, unwed Dashwood sisters—sensible Elinor and emotional Marianne—will find the world premiere of Jon Jory’s play on the stage at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie charming beyond measure.

The sets are minimal, but the exquisite costumes, manners and language are perfection. Jory, who also directed, moves his fine cast through the story at a graceful pace.

Heidi Kettenring, a major musical comedy talent, gives a touching portrayal of strong, warm-hearted Elinor, who watches her marital prospects wax and wane with heart-rending  equanimity.

Helen Sadler’s Marianne, happy one minute and despairing the next, is actually more appealing in this stage version than on Austen’s pages.

Able actors portray persons moving in and out of the narrow confines of the girls’ lives. Smiling Penny Slusher is their mother; V. Craig Heidenreich embodies their generous, boisterous cousin Sir John Middleton, and Wendy Robie mines the comedy in Middleton’s mother-in-law, an inveterate match-maker.

Eligible bachelors include solemn Col. Brandon, played with dignity by Jay Whittaker; diffident Edward, given a sweet portrayal by Geoff Rice, and Greg Matthew Anderson, who fills the bill as the handsome scoundrel Willoughby, though his repentance scene lacks conviction.

Eventually, the sisters do find happiness, with a denouement worthy of a romantic comedy from Hollywood fully 200 years later.

“Sense & Sensibility” runs through April 27 at Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Tickets are $50 and $40 and $10 for those 25 and under. Call 847-673-6300 or visit northlight.org.