Theatre Review

Epic’s ‘Secret Garden’ a second summer charmer

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Following on the heels of Epic Theatre Company’s “Charlotte’s Web,” Kevin Broccoli has chosen Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s book, The Secret Garden, to end his summer season.

Adapted by Gwen Beaton and sensitively directed by Megan Ruggiero, the two-act, hour and a half-play is a sensual delight for all ages.

Erika Fay Greenwood stars as Mary Essex, the orphaned 10-year-old who is sent to her uncle’s estate on the English moors. Mary is lonely, sour and angry, rebelling against the servants who care for her, until she meets a caretaker (Geoff White) and a young village boy (Alvaro Beltran) who introduce her to a friendly robin and the joys of nature.

Anastasia LaFrance plays the servant who helps Mary overcome her sad past. She also moves the story along by filling in the necessary gaps. She discovers that she has a cousin (Alexander Sprague) who has been convinced by the local doctor that he is deathly ill and as a result has become quite ill-mannered himself.

It is through the relationships developed with these people that Mary comes out of her shell, discovers the beauty outside the mansion walls and eventually brings everyone together. The brave young girl overcomes adversity and changes her attitude toward life while changing other lives.

The story has wonderful messages for children and adults about the importance of caring, respect and overcoming adversity. Ruggiero has created a wonderful atmosphere in a small space, using a simple projection screen surrounded by arbors, giving the audience the feeling that they are truly in a secret garden. Hats off to the people in the booth for their perfect control of the sound and lighting.

“The Secret Garden” is at Artists’ Exchange Black Box Theatre, 50 Rolfe St., Cranston, through August 24. I can’t think of a better way to introduce children to theatre while still having your own pleasant experience.

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