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Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012

Jane Austen’s Breathless Longing

Milwaukee Rep performs a heartfelt classic

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The Milwaukee Repertory Theater glides into the New Year with a very precise staging of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. Mark Healy's script does a pretty good job of distilling some 120,000 written words on the page to a little over two hours on the stage. Under the direction of Art Manke, the script is well articulated with some genuinely heartfelt moments of motion peeking through the enjoyably prim formality of a Jane Austen story.

The two women at the center of a rather comfortable ensemble are Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. Kate Hurster is admirably poised as the sensible Elinor. Victoria Mack is charmingly energetic in the role of the passionate Marianne. Their mother dotes on them in all the maternal warmth that Laura Gordon can bring to the stage. And though Gordon is clearly quite good in that role, she's irrepressibly fun in the role of the effervescent Mrs. Jennings, who Elinor and Marianne find themselves in the company of when they move away from the family home to Devonshire. Jonathan Gillard Daly matches her performance in the role of the jovial Sir John Middleton, who invites the sisters to live on his property in Devonshire.

One of several people in the cast making their Milwaukee Rep debut, Ben Jacoby makes a notably charismatic appearance as Willoughby—the man for whom Marianne develops very strong feelings. Jacoby's subtle chemistry with Victoria Mack in the beginning of the play is the romantic highlight of the show. Its emotional momentum effectively carries the play through much of the breathless longing that seems to animate so much of the listlessly dreamy romantic fugue that is a well-executed Jane Austen drama.

Sense and Sensibility
runs through Jan. 13 at the Quadracci Powerhouse Theater. For ticket reservations, call 414-224-9490.