I haven’t read Frances Hodgson Burnett’s story The Secret Garden since I was a child. The tale of the beauty of the garden has stayed with me, as it stays with almost everyone who reads it as “It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine.”
In their second summer offering, Epic Theatre has continued with their theme of friendship and is producing The Secret Garden adapted by Gwen Beaton. This production, directed beautifully by Megan Ruggiero, is a bibliophile’s dream come true. The Secret Garden tells the story of Mary, an orphaned and forgotten girl who has to move from India to England to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven, whom she has never met before. As happens when children are traumatized, Mary is an angry, sullen girl when we meet her. Through her friendship with Craven’s maid, Martha, and gardener Ben Weatherstaff, Mary begins to heal. In addition, Mary forges friendships with Martha’s brother Dicken and her cousin Colin. This touching production is illuminated by Alexander Sprague’s lighting design with an affecting musical score by Jason Karol, Tom Karol and Trevor McCabe, both elements playing an integral role in telling the story. Sprague’s lighting design is hands down one of my favorite designs I’ve seen recently.
The cast is stellar, and at one point all cast members (with the exception of one) narrate parts of the story. Most notable was Anastasia LaFrance as Martha. She was captivating the entire night. Alexander Sprague (Colin) and Erika Fay Greenwood (Mary) had some moments together onstage that truly transported them back to the 10-year-old children they were portraying. This cast brought the story to life, and after watching their performances, I want to dive back into the book.
Maybe it’s been a long time since you’ve read this story and you’re expecting something a bit dry, an idea that couldn’t be further from the truth. This show surprised me at times with moments that truly made me laugh. Artistic director Kevin Broccoli wrote in his program note that Secret Garden is a story of friendship. And it certainly is. In these times, it’s wonderful to spend time in a theater experiencing a story about friendship. However, Epic has done something more with this production. They are once again reminding us about the importance of stories. Stories bring people together, they bring comfort, and if you can find a ticket next week for their closing weekend (tickets are going fast), you should spend some time in Craven’s secret garden.
The Secret Garden will wrap up its run at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston August 23-24 at 7pm.