Tuesday, November 30, 2021     Volume: 22, Issue: 39
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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on November 24th, 2021, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 22, Issue 39 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 22, Issue 39

PCPA's 'The Secret Garden' boasts a charming cast and spirited mise en scène

By CALEB WISEBLOOD


That’s so Craven
The Pacific Conservatory Theatre (PCPA) presents its production of The Secret Garden through Dec. 23, at the Marian Theatre, located at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria. Visit pcpa.org for tickets, admission policies, and more info.

Before a single performer appears on stage, I’m already invested in PCPA’s spellbinding, and possibly foreboding, set design for The Secret Garden

My brain is brewing with anticipation over scenic designer Jason Bolen’s The Shining-esque maze imagerywhat could this mean? Is The Secret Garden even darker than I remember? (I watched the 1993 film years ago, but never read the book).


CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET?
The ensemble cast of PCPA’s The Secret Garden includes Christen Celaya, Tyrone Jones, Dorian Green, Andrew Philpot, and London Raftery (pictured from left to right).
COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO

Whether that set choice was a Stephen King nod or not, there’s definitely something ghostly going on during the show’s opening. When 10-year-old Mary Lennox (London Raftery) finds out her parents have passed away, her mother (Emily Trask) and father (Yusef Seevers) remain onstage as onlookers, among other figures in the background, who I assume are also spirits. 

These limbo-dwellers inhabit the stage for almost every scene that follows, evidently only to observe their earthly counterparts’ actions without interfering. After her parents’ deaths, Mary is sent to live with her uncle, Archibald Craven (Eduardo Enrikez), in Yorkshire, Englandfar from her upbringing in British colonial India. Archibald’s deceased wife, Lily (Jennie Greenberry), also frequently appears as an onlooking spirit.


YOUNG PROTAGONIST
London Raftery (pictured) plays 10-year-old orphan Mary Lennox, who is sent to live with her uncle in Yorkshire, England—far from her upbringing in British colonial India—after her parents’ deaths.
COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO

Despite warm welcomes from workers on the estate who Mary befriends, including Martha (Christen Celaya) and Dickon (Tyrone Jones), the young orphan feels alienated from her socially withdrawn uncle, whose peculiar home seems shrouded in mystery. 

The ominous wailing heard above Mary’s new bedroom ceiling doesn’t do her any favors either. It might sound like a ghost, but it turns out to be a closeted skeleton, so to speak. Mary discovers the cries are coming from a cousin she never knew she had, 10-year-old Colin Craven (Dorian Green). Seemingly in poor health and unable to walk, Colin has been kept bedridden for most of his life, afraid of journeying into the outside world, with occasional exceptions. Those exceptions become much more frequent once Mary develops a friendship with Colin, leading to the duo’s adventurous outings in the show’s titular garden. 


LOVED AND LOST
Although usually melancholic and socially withdrawn, Archibald Craven (Eduardo Enrikez) finds joy in the memories of his deceased wife, Lily (Jennie Greenberry).
COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO

Both Raftery and Green give stellar performances worthy of the standing ovation they received the night I attended. The entire castrounded out with supporting roles from Andrew Philpot, Kitty Balay, Erik Stein, and other endearing PCPA staplesgives this show their all, especially during musical numbers like “Come Spirit, Come Charm” and “Come to My Garden.”

The “Spring” version of The Secret Garden, PCPA’s abridged iteration of the musical, results in a 90-minute two-act show, but one performed without an intermission. 


FAMILY TREE
Estranged cousins Mary Lennox (London Raftery) and Colin Craven (Dorian Green) grow to become close friends, which leads to the duo’s adventurous outings in the show’s titular setting, in PCPA’s he Secret Garden.
COURTESY PHOTO BY LUIS ESCOBAR, REFLECTIONS PHOTOGRAPHY STUDIO

“The compression of the story puts into high contrast the beautiful and sweeping score and the simple, heartfelt journey of Mary Lennox,” director Roger DeLaurier explained in the show’s program.

DeLaurier said one of the things he admires most about the show’s script is that it doesn’t downplay the original story’s somberness. Neither does it overstate its optimism, all while staying family friendly and true to its source material.

“Coming out of this challenging year and a half, I like that this uplifting and romantic musical based on a children’s classic novel has some darker undertones in character, plot line, and music, and yet is ultimately redemptive; a tribute to the healing power of nature and love, of rejuvenation and resilience,” DeLaurier wrote.

Arts Editor Caleb Wiseblood feels rejuvenated. Send comments to cwiseblood@santamariasun.com.










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