Curtain Calls: Impressive acting chops on display in ‘Sense and Sensibility’

Things are wild and crazy at Lafayette’s Town Hall Theatre these days as an uber-talented cast, designers and director prepare for the next show, “Sense and Sensibility.”

Based on Jane Austen’s novel, playwright and actress Kate Hamill has created an inventive and energetic version of Austin’s classic work first published in 1811.

While staying faithful to Austin’s work, Hamill’s adaptation follows the adventures and misadventures of the Dashwood sisters — the sensible Elinor and hypersensitive Marianne — in “gossipy” late-18th century England. As the play opens, the unexpected demise of their father leaves the sisters and their mother in dire financial straits.

Hamill takes the basic plot and adds a ton of humor and theatricality in which everyone in the cast, except for the Dashwood sisters, plays four or five roles.

“They not only play characters but also horses, dogs and inanimate objects,” explains director Susan Evans.

Evans notes that while the play is often hysterically funny there are also many genuine moments primarily between the sisters and family plus, of course, a love story. And, as if having eight actors playing up to five roles each plus navigating 45 scenes wasn’t enough, Evans decided to add an additional challenge to herself and her cast. She asked the two actresses playing the sisters — Heather Buck and Alisha Ehrlich — to do both parts and rotate week to week from one sister to the other.

“When I was casting the play, I kept going back and forth between Heather and Alisha trying to decide which sister to cast them as,” Evans explains. “They were both so good at each that I decided to ask them about playing both roles. It’s a huge amount of lines for them to learn, plus the sisters have very different personalities, but they said, ‘Yes!’ ”

Ehrlich and Buck agreed that playing both sisters was a tremendous opportunity.

“These are such iconic characters in such a playful production and with such a great group of performers,” says Ehrlich. “I trust Susan’s artistic vision, and it’s definitely stretched me artistically.”

New to performing in the East Bay, Napa resident Heather Buck had wanted a new experience when she first auditioned for Town Hall. She got a bit more than she expected.

“It’s so fun to jump into the shoes of one sister and then be the complete opposite with the other. You have to find Elinor’s restraint and then Marianne’s almost complete lack of restraint,” says

Source:: East Bay – Entertainment


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