‘Secret Garden’ opens at Gardiner theater on Oct. 18

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GARDINER — The Open Book Players will present an adapted version of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s classic story, “The Secret Garden” at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19, at Johnson Hall.

The story introduces Mary Lennox (Skye Cotnoir), a sickly, foul-tempered, unsightly little girl who loves no one and whom no one loves. An outbreak of cholera devastates the Lennox household, leaving no one alive but herself.

Mary is sent to live in Yorkshire with her maternal uncle, Master Craven (Andy Tolman), a man whom everyone describes as “a miserable hunchback” and who has been in a state of inconsolable grief ever since the death of his wife.

Mary’s introduction to Misselthwaite Manor begins with her meeting of Mrs. Medlock (Rita Moran), the head of the servants, who is not very fond of children, particularly outspoken ones like Mary.

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Shortly after arriving at Misselthwaite, Mary hears about a secret garden from Martha (Makenzie Wade), her good-natured Yorkshire maidservant. This garden belonged to the late Mistress Craven; after her death, Master Craven locked the garden door and buried the key beneath the earth.

Mary becomes intensely curious about the secret garden, and determines to find it. Along the way she meets and becomes friends with Dickon (Emma Bourget), whose welcoming nature makes him friends with all types of forest creatures, Ben Weatherstaff (Arthur Bourget), the sometimes cranky but always dedicated caretaker, and Mrs. Appleby (Joan Tourtelotte), the warm and wise mother of Dickon and Martha.

While wandering the halls of the mansion, Mary hears a voice crying and eventually discovers another resident in the house, Colin Craven (Kyla Wallace), the young, sickly son of Master Craven.

Other characters include Dr. Spencer (Kathy Kauffman) who cares for the boy, and Nurse Grey (Colleen Mahan), the doctor’s assistant. When Mary discovers Colin, he can’t walk nor stand up, and everybody thinks that he’s going to die. Even his father stays away, grief stricken and unable to deal with his loss.

With Dickon and Mary’s help, Colin first goes into the secret garden in a wheel chair, but later learns to walk. The “magic” from the secret garden also changes Mary and Master Craven, making them both happy with life and with themselves. “The Secret Garden” is directed by Lucy Rioux. To make reservations, call 207-582-7144 or visit www.johnsonhall.org.

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