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story.lead_photo.caption The Dashwood women’s trials and tribulations are the subject of Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.” A witty, fast-moving adaptation by Kate Hamill is currently being produced by Arts Center of the Ozarks. - Photo by Lara Hightower

Though some might think of Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" as a period piece, Ashley Edwards, director of the Arts Center of the Ozarks production of author Kate Hamill's adaptation, says this particular re-imagining of the beloved novel is anything but.

"It's a contemporary play," says Edwards, who directed "Twas the Night" at ACO last holiday season and is the theater coordinator at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. She's been directing shows at ACO for eight years. "It's a new interpretation of the novel. It's not intended at all to be a historical piece, and it's not a direct adaptation of the novel. ... It will teach you about Austen and the story, but even for audiences with no knowledge or affinity to Austen, they will enjoy it."


‘Sense and Sensibility’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday; again Oct. 20-22

WHERE — Arts Center of the Ozarks, 214 S. Main St. in Springdale

COST — $10-$20

INFO — 751-5441

The show received a New York debut in 2014 and earned the "NYT Critic's Pick" designation from critic Ben Brantley. He described the play as having an "audaciously high energy level."

"As adapted for the stage by Kate Hamill and directed by Eric Tucker, 'Sense and Sensibility' might be described as Jane Austen for those who don't usually like Jane Austen, finding her work too reserved for lively entertainment," wrote Brantley.

"It follows the fortunes (and misfortunes) of the Dashwood sisters -- sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne -- after their father's sudden death leaves them financially destitute and socially vulnerable," explains Edwards. "Set in gossipy, late 18th century England, with a fresh female voice, the play is full of humor, emotional depth and bold theatricality. 'Sense and Sensibility examines our reactions, both reasonable and ridiculous, to societal pressures. When reputation is everything, how do you follow your heart?"

"[Austen is] so witty," Kate Hamill said in a 2016 interview about her adaptation. "The romance is the thing people tend to focus on, because [her stories] are really romantic. How often do you read an entire book where you're desperate for the two main love interests to touch each other's hands or kiss? The tension is so great. But she's so witty, so funny and so incisive -- so observant. And her characters are universal. They're people we still see today...I wanted to play up the humor, because she gets dismissed as chick lit a lot, and I think she's hysterically funny. So I wanted to play up that, as well as the social commentary."

Edwards says that it's important for ACO to include new work in its mainstage seasons.

"I believe in doing new theater," she says. "Kate Hamill is one of the 40 most produced playwrights in the country right now, with her witty and hilarious adaptations of Austen. There are a lot of well-known theaters also doing this play as well, which makes me believe that ACO is right on trend with contemporary American theaters."

NAN What's Up on 10/13/2017

Print Headline: 'How Do You Follow Your Heart?' 'Sense and Sensibility' asks contemporary questions

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