Photo by Evan Apostolico
Sense and Sensibility by the Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School (PALCS) in West Chester, PA
May 7, 2020
Review submitted by Oakley Blinman of Harriton High School.
Love is a topic long explored by humanity. It is often felt, but seldom understood – yet, the audience of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School’s (PALCS) performance of Sense and Sensibility certainly grasped the meaning of love as they fell head-over-heels for the beautiful performance.
Sense and Sensibility is based on the classic Jane Austen novel. It tells the tale of the Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Margaret, and Marianne, as they come of age in the wake of their late father’s death. With the help of Colonel Brandon, John Willoughby, and Edward Ferrars, the girls discover love, joy, and heartbreak in this charming piece about the beauty of relationships.
PALCS put on a hilarious, heartwarming, and classic show. Featuring many strong actors and a formidable technical team, the cozy English countryside was brought to life on stage. The language of Jane Austen is challenging, but the cast tackled it head-on and made it easy for the audience to understand. No one left the theatre scratching their head – in fact, it’s safe to say everyone left much wiser than before.
This show was led by the dynamic duo of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood, played by Roni Endres and Lauryn Swavely, respectively. The two played off each other brilliantly, Swavely as the more sensible Elinor and Endres as the fiery and passionate Marianne. Swavely’s air of wisdom was incredibly powerful, and it swept the stage the moment she stepped into the spotlight. Endres’ bold comedy and vulnerable character were the perfect intersection in the creation of a very memorable performance.
Talent is evidently ubiquitous at PALCS, as the show also featured an impressive supporting cast. Xander Dake played the charming Colonel Brandon with elegance and esteem. Mrs. Dashwood, the girls’ mother, was played by Rebecca Stehle, who portrayed her with grace and charming reliability. Caitlin Boone had the audience rolling with laughter as the memorable Mrs. Jennings. A dynamic ensemble, the Gossips, tied it all together, bringing life to transitions and immersing the audience in the world of the play.
The small space in which the performance took place presented a unique challenge for the technical teams, which they took in stride. The props team, lead by Sophie Wickes, provided a litany of enhancing and period-appropriate props. Angelina Capp, the student choreographer, did an incredible job with the classical dances. The lighting team, lead by Felicia Berrier, and the sound team, lead by Kennedy Gab and Brianna Mullin, worked harmoniously to make sure the actors were consistently seen and heard.
Review submitted by Lulu Pettit of Jenkintown High School.
A scandal. A secret engagement. A deadly illness. Welcome to the world of Sense and Sensibility, brought to life by the students of Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts in fall 2019.
This drama was originally written for the stage by Kate Hamill in 2014, based on the 1811 Jane Austin novel of the same name. The classic story follows two sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, as they struggle to find love and happiness in early-nineteenth-century high society. As they go, they learn a lesson that still rings true today: we must find a balance between letting our emotions dictate and living entirely sensibly.
This production was outstanding, keeping the audience hooked through the lively acting of not only the main cast but also the supporting and featured characters. Throughout the show, the minimalist props approach was both interesting and well-covered. The consistent reinforcement from the talented actors showing a carriage or table’s presence in the scene made for funny and creative scenes.
The main cast was excellent, always staying entirely in character and moving past any small misspeaks easily and naturally. Lauren Swavely as Elinor Dashwood and Roni Endres as Marianne Dashwood were both exceptional. They remained in character even while the lights were down or lowered where they were on stage, always playing off of each other’s lines and actions comfortably.
Other notably strong performers include Xander Dake as Colonel Brandon, Rebecca Stehle as Mrs. Dashwood, and Gabriel Rottman as John Willoughby. All three had clear, understandable portrayals of their characters, roping in the viewer with their skillful acting. Caitlin Boone as Mrs. Jennings and Joey Colasante as Sir John Middleton were both a delight to see on stage, especially shining in their scenes together, when they built on each other’s jokes as if second nature, bringing laughter into all the scenes. The Gossips were always charming to watch, lightening up even the most serious scenes. They laughed openly and easily while talking, always making the audience feel comfortable.
Stage manager Kari Ramoth and the PALCS Stage Crew moved quickly when moving props between scenes, never drawing the audience’s attention away from the scene at hand. Sophie Wickes’s prop choices were smart and interesting, taking an original minimalist approach while always getting across where the characters were or what they were doing. Felicia Berrier’s sound was consistently through the entire show, keeping the actors loud enough to hear comfortably with the music and effects as secondary sounds.
Overall, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School Center for Performing and Fine Arts gave an exceptional show with an outstanding cast and crew, keeping the audience hooked, laughing, and comfortable through their entire performance of Sense and Sensibility.