Now beginning its 20th season under the enterprising guidance of artistic director Rachel May, Synchronicity Theatre isn’t exactly renowned for uproarious comedy. Not counting the company’s family-oriented programming, among its most recent main stage productions are the historical drama “Anne Boleyn,” and the topical contemporary plays “Strait of Gibraltar” (about a suspected Muslim terrorist) and “Eclipsed” (about the civil war in Liberia).
For that matter, neither are the works of Jane Austen considered especially hilarious. To describe some of them as comedies of manners would be one thing, but an adaptation as routinely nonsensical and informal as Kate Hamill’s “Sense and Sensibility” (based on Austen’s 1811 novel) is something else altogether.
The heroines of the popular period piece are the two Dashwood sisters, the guarded Elinor and the outgoing Marianne, who’ve fallen on trying times since the death of their father. As they struggle to maintain “respectable appearances,” each in her own way, their financial security, social standing and romantic prospects hang in the balance.
The roles are very nicely portrayed here by Shelli Delgado and Jennifer Schottstaedt, respectively, and director May elicits fine support from Marcie Millard and Michelle Pokopac (as their mother and younger sister) — both of whom pop up later in the comedy as a pair of conniving gossips, too. Potential love interests are variably played by Marcello Audino, Bryant Smith and Justin Walker (also in dual parts).
The device of casting most of the actors in two (or more) roles doesn’t always make it any easier to distinguish between or keep track of the different characters. In other gimmicky instances, May casts one of the peripheral dowagers in the story with an actor in drag (Robert Lee Hindsman), and another in the form of a hand puppet. Likewise, the director’s frenzied pace often does more harm than good in terms of clearly delineating all the various subplots.
In the show’s weird “movement design” — credited to assistant director Ashley Anderson and choreographer Anicka Austin, if presumably conceived by Hamill — members of the ensemble occasionally serve as glorified stagehands, rearranging the furniture in midscene or even midsentence, lifting Elinor or Marianne from one spot and repositioning them in another, or forming a line behind them and shadowing them around the stage. In one bit, they resort to exaggerated silent-movie pantomime.
Hamill’s fast and loose take on Austen might seem an ideal match for, say, Dad’s Garage, which has a long and proven experience handling such manic material. Somehow, the show doesn’t make quite the same sense as a proper fit for May and Synchronicity — and its newly heightened sensibility rarely feels genuinely spontaneous so much as decidedly forced.
“Sense and Sensibility”
Through Oct. 15. 8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; 5 p.m. Sundays; 8 p.m. Monday (Oct. 2 only). $23-$41 (Wednesday and Monday shows are pay-what-you-can). Synchronicity Theatre, 1545 Peachtree St. NE (in the Peachtree Pointe complex), Atlanta. 404-484-8636, www.synchrotheatre.com.
Bottom line: A curio.