Arts & Culture

In ‘Sense and Sensibility,’ sisters look for love

The Dashwood sisters — Elinor (Shae Palic) and Marianne (Sierra Wells) — have differing attitudes toward romance in PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s production of “Sense and Sensibility.”
The Dashwood sisters — Elinor (Shae Palic) and Marianne (Sierra Wells) — have differing attitudes toward romance in PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s production of “Sense and Sensibility.” Reflections Photography Studio

The joys and tribulations of true love are examined in PCPA-Pacific Conservatory Theatre’s production of “Sense and Sensibility,” playing in Santa Maria and Solvang.

The romantic comedy is based on English author Jane Austen’s first published novel, “Sense and Sensibility,” written in 1811. This stage version was adapted in 2014 by Joseph Hanreddy and J.R. Sullivan.

“Sense and Sensibility” focuses on two English sisters, Elinor Dashwood (Shae Palic) and Marianne Dashwood (Sierra Wells). Each have an opposite approach to the pursuit of love and happiness; Elinor is sensible and rational while Marianne is impulsive and emotional.

After the death of their father, Henry (Peter S. Hadres), Elinor, Marianne and their mother, Mrs. Dashwood (Elizabeth Stuart), are forced to leave their upscale English home by their ungrateful stepbrother, John Dashwood (Adam Schroeder), and his self-centered wife, Fanny (Jennifer Holcombe).

The women move to a small cottage in Devonshire on the property of distant relatives Sir John (Michael Tremblay) and Lady Middleton (Jacqueline Hildebrand). There, they meet Lady Middleton’s mother, jolly Mrs. Jennings (Kitty Balay), and her ditzy pregnant sister, Charlotte (Rosemary Brownlow.)

Elinor grows very fond of Fanny’s brother, handsome Edward Ferrars (Matt Koenig). But she later discovers that he is secretly engaged to conniving Lucy Steele (Emily Daly).

Marianne, meanwhile, is introduced to Sir John’s older friend, Colonel Brandon (Andrew Philpot). Although he is kind and steady, she is not interested in him.

Then Marianne meets and falls head over heels in love with charming John Willoughby (Riley Shanahan), who abruptly leaves for London. Elinor is skeptical of Willoughby’s true intentions toward her sister.

When the sisters are whisked away to London for the winter by Mrs. Jennings, Marianne finds out that John is engaged to wealthy Miss Sophia Grey (Caroline Whelehan).

Elinor and Marianne soon learn the secrets behind these deceptive engagements. Ultimately, both women discover the important balance between rationalism and romanticism when it comes to love and marriage.

The ambitious three-hour production of “Sense and Sensibility” is effectively directed by Roger DeLaurier. Twenty-two actors play 26 different characters in multiple scenes filled with an abundance of dialogue.

The talented cast smoothly unfolds the story with wit, energy and poise.

Palic and Wells superbly portray the two sisters with their distinctive personalities. Although several female cast members strongly support the main characters with humor and intensity, standouts include Holcombe as Fanny, Balay as Mrs. Jennings, and Brownlow as Charlotte.

Scenic designer Dave Nofsinger uses minimal pieces of furniture to create the upper-class estate and cottage, which provides flexibility for many scene changes. Costume designer Judith A. Ryerson dutifully represents the late 1700s with dignified attire in a variety of muted colors.

Tim Thistleton is the lighting designer and Chuck Hatcher is the sound designer. The stage manager is Sam Burke.

“Sense and Sensibility” explores the quest for love, honor and personal happiness with profound grace and a touch of humor.

‘Sense and Sensibility’

1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; through July 30

Marian Theatre, 800 S. College Drive, Santa Maria

$29 to $39.50, discounts for seniors, students and children

8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5 through 21

Solvang Festival Theater, 420 Second St., Solvang

$38.50 to $49.50, discounts for seniors, students and children

805-922-8313 or