BeeBee Patillo, Abigail Maupin, Mollie Murk, & Leilani Bracey in Sense and Sensibility. Photo: Brian Owens

Sense and Sensibility 

Based on the novel by Jane Austen
Adapted by Kate Hamil
Directed by Amy Attaway 

A review by Tory Parker

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Tory Parker. All rights reserved. 

Well, folks, we’re back again! Last January, Kentucky Shakespeare brought us the beloved Jane Austen favorite, Pride and Prejudice, with a quick and sparkling adaptation from one of the most-produced playwrights in the country, Kate Hamill. This January, they’re back in the Bomhard with Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility.

Here’s a fun Austen fact: did you know Sense and Sensibility was published two years before Pride and Prejudice? We can see similar themes: beloved sisters with different temperaments, a secret rake with a scandalous past, gossipy, meddling older women, and at least one grown man who would sooner be run over with a carriage than communicate in any sort of effective manner. Seemingly, it has all the same selling points but remains noticeably less popular than its counterpart. 

If the fact that it hasn’t been adapted into everything from a web series on Youtube to a Bollywood classic has you worried that you won’t connect or love Kentucky Shakespeare’s Sense and Sensibility like you love P&P, let me assuage you of that worry. This year’s production has all the delight and charm of a punch at a party—delicious ingredients that bring people together and warm them from the inside out. 

This story centers around the women of the Dashwood family. Three daughters and their mother are uprooted from their life of gentility after the death of the father and their dismissal at the hands of his son (from a previous marriage) and his (frankly) horrible wife. Poor and grieving their father and their old life, reserved and demure eldest sister Elinor (Mollie Murk) and bleeding-hearted middle child Marianne (BeeBee Patillo), must face romance, heartbreak, and the unforgiving eye of Society. 

In classic Austen fashion, there’s a gaggle of ridiculous characters including the excitable fool, Mrs. Jennings, bursting to life with Jennifer Pennington, and the formidable Fanny Dashwood and Sir John Middleton, both annihilated by Neill Robertson. It’s a testament to Robertson that they warrant a laugh and applause before uttering a word, simply by gliding onstage in a ball gown. Let’s just hope they never get into multi-level marketing, because whatever Neill Robertson is selling, we’re all buying. Pennington and Robertson seem like they’re having a ball getting to play the absurdity together—the fact that we get to watch is just a bonus. 

Brandi S. Hill, a newcomer to Kentucky Shakespeare, takes a villainous turn as Lucy Steele, relishing in her nice-girl passive aggression. Abigail Maupin heads the Dashwood as the matriarch but shines more as the chaos gremlin that is Lucy’s sister, Anne Steele. Superstar Leilani Bracey, a YPAS sophomore, is sunshine itself as Margaret Dashwood. Gregory Maupin brings a stoic sense of security to our besotted man of duty, Colonel Brandon. Zachary Burrell gets a feast, first with the clown of an idiot, John Dashwood, and with the illicit rake, Willoughby (whose first costume is for the girlies who really enjoy Darcy in the pond and Anthony Bridgerton in the lake). And they ALL are hilarious as the pesky, buzzing, humming throng of Gossips, running amok with rumors and assumptions. 

I’m not going to walk you through the plot of this story. This book has been out for 200 years—if you want to spoil it for yourself, I empower you to go ahead and do that. Here’s what I think differentiates S&S from P&P—and from a few other favorite Austens. First of all: the men in S&S aren’t brooding or bubbly, nor are they rich, nor are they witty and teasing, or sexy and tortured with unrequited love. They are men, and while Good, often bad at conversation. And these Dashwood sisters are very different people, and unlike in P&P (but much more like real life) that can result in some deep hurt. Why don’t you love how I love? Why don’t you mourn like I mourn? It must mean yours is wrong; it must mean you think mine is too much/not enough. 

Two of the strongest moments in this production come when Marianne and Elinor face this chasm of difference between them head-on. Murk and Patillo, who by now play sisters and companions with the comfort of an old cardigan, beautifully embody the layers of pain from feeling you are being deliberately misunderstood by someone closest to you. Patillo, who soared (hehe) this summer as Puck in Midsummer, is a pitch-perfect Marianne. What could so easily read as childish or an annoying flair for the dramatic is all charm and good spirit with Patillo, and you find yourself thinking, how could you not cry for her? How could you not want her to find everything her soppy, poetry-laden heart desires? 

But this is a love story, of course. And our blazing hero is as unlikely as they come—socially awkward, bumbling, and shy, Edward (Justin Jackson) attempts to do right by everyone but himself, and in this effort, does more harm than good. He loves, with his quiet, peace-keeping heart, the similarly tempered Elinor. Both of them are bound by duty, quashing down personal desire in favor of service to everyone around them—eldest siblings to their very core. And despite a lack of time or conversation that we see, Murk and Jackson bring their mirroring hearts to life. Their feelings for each other are the one thing they cannot control or suppress, and their duty to others makes them all the more worthy of each other. 

And in the end, we have a cathartic cry, a beautiful kiss, and a little dance to cap off an absolutely delightful evening. The adaptation is laugh-out-loud funny all throughout, made all the more so by director Amy Attaway and an ensemble who never miss a moment for a laugh, unless of course, it’s time to cry. It’s everything you love about Austen and Kentucky Shakespeare and a good play! 

Featuring Leilani Bracey, Zachary Burrell, Brandi S. Hill, Justin Jackson, Abigail Maupin, Gregory Maupin, Mollie Murk, Brittany “BeeBee” Patillo, Jennifer Pennington, and Neill Robertson

Sense and Sensibility 

January 6 – 14, 2024 

Kentucky Shakespeare
The Kentucky Center – Bomhard Theater
501 West Main Street
Louisville KY 40202

Tory Parker, originally from West Virginia, is now a proud Kentuckian as well. In Louisville, she’s worked and/or performed with Actors Theatre of Louisville, Claddagh Theatre Company, the Chamber Theatre, Bellarmine University, Wayward Actors Company, Derby City Playwrights, Company OutCast, SHOTZ, Highview Arts Center, and director Emily Grimany. She is a co-founding artist of the queer theatre collaborative, three witches shakespeare, and of Untitled Louisville Theatre Company. As a playwright, her full-length drama, Recommended for You, appears in Stage It and Stream It: Plays for Virtual Theatre, and her original works have appeared in the National Women’s Theatre Festival Fringe Festival.