Sense and Sensibility by Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr, PA
February 4, 2020
Review submitted by Hope Odhner of Academy of the New Church
Witty and charming, Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility was brought to life by the dedicated cast and crew at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.
Austen’s beloved story was adapted into a play by Emma Whipday and Brian McMahon, and first premiered in September 2017 at the American Shakespeare Center in Stauton, VA. The plot centers around two sisters, Elinor and Marianne, whose opposite natures are confronted with very similar romantic troubles. Practically turned out of their home by their own brother after the death of their father, the girls and their mother find themselves settled in a quaint cottage where they run into more than one charming young man with unclear intentions. Austen’s clever dialogue and lovable characters tell the rest.
The vision for the play was the work of high school senior Rivkah Wyner who directed and produced this student-run show. Her passion and attention to detail were evident and contagious as she oversaw the dramatic aspects as well as the technical elements. The cast showed dedication and spirit as they grappled with complex lines and character development.
Niva Cohen and Maya Patent, as Elinor and Marianne, captured the contradictory relationship of sisters who often disagree, yet remain the closest of friends. The cycle of disputes and forgiveness flowed smoothly, and the girls took naturally to Austen’s lavish language and cutting remarks. Cohen’s honesty and earnest sincerity provided a solid opposition to Patent’s spirited opinions and high emotion.
The sisters’ mother, Mrs. Dashwood, played by Daniella Barow, maintained a gentle balance between sense and sensibility. Her light voice and kind manners lent themselves well to her role as the mother of two decidedly different daughters. The various love interests all proved to be charming, each in their own way, most notably Eli Beaubian as John Willoughby. His charismatic grace and confident, easy humor made him almost too good to be true, while the lovable awkwardness of Edward Ferrars, played by Jacob Spivack, eventually blossomed into sweet amiability.
Besides Rivkah Wyner and her dedicated efforts in directing, producing, props, and publicity, there was a host of other students who contributed to the show’s success. Sophia Decherney served as stage manager, working with Wyner on the simple, yet effective lighting design which was executed by Charlie Mansheim.
A classic story of polar opposites and unexpected romance, Jane Austen’s work continues to resonate with audiences today. Thanks to the hardworking students at Jack M. Barrack Academy, the characters of Sense and Sensibility have been lifted from the page and put onstage to speak to us once more.
Review submitted by Nola Dowd of PA Leadership Charter School: Center for Performing and Fine Arts
Romance, family, and the confinements of social class is abundant in Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s production of Sense and Sensibility.
Jane Austen’s iconic story deals with themes of love and dependency. The plot surrounds the Dashwoods, a family that has recently been thrust into poverty after the death of their father. The eldest sister Elinor, who represents common sense, falls for sweet Mr. Edward Ferrars but struggles throughout the play to voice her feelings. Her younger sister Marianne, who represents emotionality, quickly falls for the handsome Mr. Willoughby who turns out to be less than perfect. Through the play, the sisters deal with betrayal, heartbreak, new love, and most of all their bond with each other.
The cast of Sense and Sensibility took on a courageous project. Dealing with the complicated literary work of Jane Austen is no easy feat. Though the team should be congratulated on many aspects, the language throughout was most noticeable. The challenging and chunky dialect was spoken eloquently by all, the cast seemed well-versed in the meanings and implications of the language. The clear understanding translated to the audience and provided illumination in an area where many productions lack.
Elinor, played by Niva Cohen, and Marianne, played by Maya Patent, carried themselves with grace and poise. Their demeanors were very much reflective of the regency period. The connection between the two sisters was evident especially through the second act, where both girls were able to be vulnerable with each other. This was showcased in Marianne’s heartbreaking discovery of Willoughby’s intentions to marry another.
The cast, although small, showcased the wide range of characters. Quite notably within the male cast, Eli Beaubian, who played Willoughby, participated in a striking scene towards the end of Act Two. The depth of his character shone through, his charisma and nasty behavior in a constant battle for the audience’s attention.
With a limited amount of space, furnishings were utilized to create different spaces. The lighting and sound gave general illusions of the interior and exterior locations with warmer tones inside and cooler for scenes taking place outside. The hair and make-up complemented each character. Though simple, it was quite effective and a lovely note to the period given. Smart and creative choices were made by director Rivkah Wyner, using character moments such as letter reading, to approach a deeper philosophical meaning.
Classic and elegant, Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy’s production of Sense and Sensibility conjures a world of love, wit, and sophistication.