It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen will never go out of style.

Indeed, in recent years, Austen has become the belle of the big screen and the stage. The beloved 19th-century novelist created such classics as "Pride and Prejudice," "Emma" and "Sense and Sensibility," all of which have been smash hits on and off the page. Now San Jose Stage Company has transported one of her lesser-known comedies of manners into the realm of theater with a world premiere adaptation of "Persuasion."

One of Austen's last works, "Persuasion" was published after her death at the age of 41 in 1817, along with the supernatural tale "Northanger Abbey." A delectable tale of love lost and won, "Persuasion" goes deeper that most of her romantic adventures because of its subdued, almost autumnal atmosphere.

Will Springhorn Jr. as Captain Frederick Wentworth and Maryssa Wanlass as Anne Elliot in San Jose Stage Company’s World Premiere of Jane
Will Springhorn Jr. as Captain Frederick Wentworth and Maryssa Wanlass as Anne Elliot in San Jose Stage Company's World Premiere of Jane Austen's Persuasion, adapted by Jennifer Le Blanc. Photo by Dave Lepori/San Jose Stage ( Photo by Dave Lepori/San Jose St )

Slyly adapted by playwright Jennifer Le Blanc, "Persuasion" rings with Austen's customary elegance and wit, the spirit of independent thinking that made her one of the greatest novelists of her day. While this San Jose Stage production has its flaws, the romantic escapade is nicely framed by John Koss' sound design and Jean Cardinale's costumes. Certainly it's a treat for Austenophiles and other assorted hopeless romantics.

Kind-hearted Anne (Maryssa Wanlass) first falls for Frederick when she is 19, but he is a poor sailor and they are not allowed to marry. Neither finds anyone else to match that early love affair. Quickly eclipsed by her sisters -- Elizabeth (Allison F. Rich), who is thought pretty, and Mary (Halsey Varady), who is manipulative -- Anne begins to fear that there is nothing left for her in life besides doilies and duty.

In some ways, Anne is the embodiment of the Austen heroine: smart, steadfast and ever hopeful. As Austen once put it: "Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience or give it a more fascinating name: Call it hope."

When she and Frederick finally meet again, many years have passed. Anne is now pushing 30, antiquated for a Victorian heroine, and she is still subject to the rigid rules of a class-obsessed society. Her aristocratic family of poseurs has now fallen upon hard times, and she is no longer considered young. By contrast, Frederick may bear the wounds of being spurned but is now one of the most eligible bachelors in town.

Once enmeshed in the petty social hierarchies of Bath, the center of the fashionable world at the time, they must decide if they will marry for love or for ambition. Anne is also courted by the aggressively affable Mr. Elliot (Paul Stout), while Frederick (Will Springhorn Jr.), now a dashing captain and a man of means, is pursued by everything with a bonnet.

Director Kenneth Kelleher nicely mines the comedy of the story as well as its biting commentary on a culture that prizes wealth and status above all else. Courtship may be Austen's primary milieu, but her stories capture the foibles of humanity at large.

While the staging takes a few scenes to find a suitably crisp pacing and some of the accents are a tad slippery, the central performances are captivating. Wanlass is an irresistible Anne, quiet and noble and long-suffering but capable of a devastating one-liner in a pinch. Springhorn Jr. gives the captain equal parts pride and regret.

One of the chief pleasures of the production is Le Blanc's use of the text. Passages from the book are often spoken aloud, in the manner of the Word for Word company, so that the richness of Austen's famously deadpan characterizations comes across.

Kelleher's production enhances this with clever bits of staging, such as spinning parasols simulating turning wheels of a carriage or actors holding up a tablecloth to suggest a dining room table. The novel comes to life in our mind's eye, which is as it should. Much is left to the imagination here, perfectly in keeping with style and tone of "Persuasion."

Contact Karen D'Souza at 408-271-3772. Read her at www.mercurynews.com/karen-dsouza, follow her at Twitter.com/KarenDSouza4 and like her at Facebook.com/Dsouzatheaterpage.

'PERSUASION'

By Jennifer Le Blanc, adapted from the novel by Jane Austen

Through: April 28
Where: San Jose Stage Company, 490 S. First St.
Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (one intermission)
Tickets: $20-$45, 408-283-7142, www.thestage.org