Jane Austen’s novels are so noted for their insight into the manners and domestic proprieties of their age that it’s easy to forget how lively, indeed funny, her work is. An element of danger also arises: those idyllic country settings are really battlefields in which lone heroines square off against an array of Willoughbys, Wickhams and Crawfords. Polite social interactions might take the place of guns and artillery, but one wrong move can still lead to certain disaster.

Successful adaptations understand this, and locals may recall the excellent 2011 production of Sense and Sensibility by TheatreWorks as one such triumph. With San Jose Stage’s Persuasion, a version written by local actress Jennifer Le Blanc, who appeared as Elinor Dashwood in the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility, there’s a definite sense that the torch has been passed. This production takes elements that worked well at TheatreWorks and scales them down to fit the more intimate confines of San Jose Stage’s venue. Most apparently, the play is a semimusical; that is, there are a few songs here and there, but the play doesn’t rely on them to drive the action. Rather than show tunes, this is period music by Charles Dibdin and others, the kind that Austen herself would have listened to.

Persuasion, less read than S&S and Pride and Prejudice but still highly regarded, is set apart by its more mature heroine. Anne is a strong, active woman, always ready to deal with trouble while the smug, selfish people surrounding her are at a loss. Maryssa Wanlass handles this role gracefully. Will Springhorn Jr. plays her love interest, Capt. Wentworth, while the other eight members of the cast, including Stage regulars Halsey Varady and Allison F. Rich, share a whopping 21 roles. Rich’s silly Elizabeth and Paul Stout’s sleazy Mr. Elliot are just a couple of these, and Susan Gundunas delivers a pair of lovely opera arias.

The large number of characters and actors in multiple roles is sometimes confusing, but Persuasion makes an otherwise smooth transition to theater. The play is very faithful to the novel, while possessing enough of its own personality to avoid being merely the live version of a BBC miniseries (actors reciting crucial third-person narration from the novel is an especially nice touch). Austen’s characters seem so perfectly suited to the stage, it’s a wonder that we don’t see as many theatrical productions of her work as we do film and television versions.

Runs through April 28; $20-$45
The Stage