Ovation’s Tamara Cacchione reviewed Rhinebeck Theater Society’s The Secret Garden, published here recently, and it was a glowing review. I saw the play after the review went up, and as Ovation’s Chief Editor, I could not help but further comment on the success achieved by the production. I hope Ovation’s followers will indulge me in this “double-dip.”
The story follows a young girl, Mary, orphaned while in colonial English India, and then consigned to live with an unflinchingly detached and mourning uncle in a gothic house, haunted by the spirits of both the uncle’s and the little girl’s, past. While there, she brings her stubborn resolve to bear on the lingering spirits of the house as well as her debilitated cousin, Colin, and from that mix of real-world determination and other-worldly guidance, the deep pain of regret, loss, and longing is overcome for all the characters, living and dead.
The metaphor of the secret garden, which, young Mary determines, is not as dead as it seems, but only “biding its time,” is a deeply moving literary and dramatic device. Having already published a review of the show, it is not necessary to recount the arc of the characters in particular. But, theater-goers should know how powerfully effective the ensemble was; how flawless the willful Mary and the defiant Colin Craven were in the hands of the young and very talented Jane Langan and Sean Patrick Mahoney, respectively; how much depth David Foster gave the potentially two dimensional Dr. Craven; how beautifully comforting Katie-Beth Anspach’s Martha was; how hauntingly beautiful Elizabeth Thomas’s Lily was in the role of the spirit of Mary’s mother; how earnest and safe we feel as we, like Mary, were guided by Josh Lococco’s Dicken and Joe Beem’s Weatherstaff.
And, special note is made here of the performance of Joshuah Patriarco as the dour Archibald Craven. Regular patrons of the Rhinebeck Center for the Performing Arts will recognize the veteran actor from numerous prior engagements at the Center. But they will not have seen him deliver a more subtle, nuanced and moving performance than this. He has always been capable of dominating his performance space; here he melts into it instead, and thereby elevates it when Archibald finally bridges the distance between himself and his son Colin, and again when he takes back control of the affairs of the long-fallow house.
The show was very effectively directed by Dorothy Luongo and Wendy Urban-Meade, whose deep understanding of its magic and appeal is reflected in their notes. Give that the show has closed, I post this largely in honor of their effort here to encourage audiences to keep an ey out for their individual or collaborative effort in the future.
Like the house and garden at its core, any theater production ultimately belongs to the ether; Ovation felt impelled to send it off properly acknowledged.