LEHI — There is something magical that happens every once in a while in community theatre. It is a unique, special group of people; some have years of stage experience, and some have next to none. But they all sacrifice hours of their time without compensation simply because they love being in a show. Participants in community theater have the ability to capture the hearts of the audience in a way that I believe many professional productions cannot. The actors exude pure excitement and energy. Many professional theatre companies, during their long runs, have become so rote that it feels more like watching a rerun than watching a living, breathing thing. Live theater, at its best, is booming with energy. The cast and crew at Lehi Arts Council has captured my heart in the same way with their production of Sense and Sensibility.
Based on a novel written and adapted for the stage by Kate Hamill, Sense and Sensibility comically depicts 19th century English middle-class life. It focuses on the Dashwood family, specifically the love lives of Dashwood daughters Elinor and Marianne. Elinor symbolizes “sense,” or logic, while Marianne symbolizes “sensibility,” or emotion, and both must navigate the challenges of these dispositions when finding love.
The cast and crew make this production look easy. I commend director Hannah Thomas for how quickly the production flies, despite the lengthy script. The cast moves even faster than the stagehands, rapidly clipping through scene transitions with incredible speed (which I appreciated). Many things made these transitions so rapid – not only would stage manager Shelby Revill call the light cues just slightly early, but the cast would also move the set pieces in character, creating a beautiful cycle of unbroken energy and pacing. The actors and the tech are a team in maintaining the energy of the production.
What I loved most about the cast were two things: their high energy and incredible commitment to character. Particular standouts to me were the two leading ladies, Hannah Hagues and Alyssa Baumgarten. McKay Horton, playing Edward/Robert Ferrars, was also a strong component to the cast. While some of the accents faltered (which is to be expected in community theater, though it did not bother me very much), Hagues’s accent remains sharp throughout the entire performance. The actress is also incredibly animated, swooning back and forth with vivid facial expressions and telling inflection, helping me understand the more wordy script. Baumgarten and Horton hooked on the show the very moment they first see each other, in the third scene. The slow pacing in that moment was gorgeous. I was so glad they took their time with the rich and hysterical awkwardness of this interaction. The couple seems very vulnerable on stage with locked eyes full of deep and believable love. All of their interactions are the most tender of the production.
I am a huge fan of women in comedy, and Alanna Klotermann (playing Lucy Steele) and Georgia Bean (playing Anne Steele) practically steal the show. I loved how the two women’s physical comedy and timing are fabulous, while their acting remained believable. When Isabella Hixson was on stage, as any of her various characters, I found the actress’s slower mannerisms, blank stare, and puppy dog disposition incredibly endearing.
However, I think what truly sold me on this production are how loveable the more outlandish characters are, even if perhaps the performers’ acting skills did not appear perfect. Anna Rast (as Mrs. Jenkins) and Samuel Clement (as Sir John Middleton) delighted me purely because they had unstoppable energy and seemed like they were having the time of their lives. Similarly, when Zoe Barrus (as Mrs. Ferrars) began cackling into her castmate’s ear, tears actually sprang from my eyes because it was so ridiculously hilarious.
In summary, Lehi Arts Council’s Sense and Sensibility is a very special community theater production because it reminded me of why I love live theatre so much. Theatre is bursting with energy. Theatre is alive and kicking. Theatre changes lives and this world, because of the connections people make and the fun times that the actors and audience have. To the cast and crew of Sense and Sensibility, thank you for giving me such a wonderful experience. Never let that beautiful energy die, because you are touching people’s lives.