March 12, 2008: What a gem


To The Editor:

Last night I had the good fortune to see the Open Eye Theatre’s production of “Secret Garden.” As a second homeowner in the Catskills with an apartment in New York City, I see my share of Broadway shows, but I’m always surprised at how much talent is hidden in these hills. Hats off to Amie Brockway for giving Margaretville its own theater and a place to showcase the talents of so many gifted people whom you may know as the “butcher, the baker, or undertaker.”
I had to sneak a peek at my program to see who was giving such a beguiling performance as the play’s gardener Ben Weatherstaff. It turns out this marvelous character actor, Bill Tari, runs a funeral home and B&B in Jefferson.
Then there’s the enchanting Monica Wildermuth, whose radiance as Martha Sowerby lit up the stage. Her mellifluous voice and convincing Yorkshire accent made me strain to read my program in the dark. No surprise that she has a solid background in theatre studies and was a thespian in NYC before becoming an upstate mom with an at-home business.
I didn’t have to read in the dark to recognize my friend David Turan, who plays both the reclusive Archibald Craven and the doctor. I met David as Johnny Appleseed when I was cast as a “she-devil” at the Open Eye. Not so long ago, the stage was in a tent—and when it rained, we actors crouched under umbrellas, waiting outdoors to make our entrance. Now, I was warm and cosy in a “real theatre” as the rain lashed the windows.
Which brings me to Laura Battelani, whose Crow in Conference of the Birds had a walk that would shame a rapper. In this play, she’s the starchy Mrs. Medlock, as well as the “robin in the garden.” Moving with the grace of a dancer, she animated the robin puppet to the tune of a flute. Off-stage, Laura is a professional masseuse.
And who was playing that magical flute? At intermission, I recognized another Open Eye recruit, Robin White. An accomplished musician, Robin teaches fifth grade in Andes. Speaking of youngsters, fifth-grader Barbara Morrow does as admirable job as the play’s central character, Mary Lennox.
Yes, community theatre mixes beginners with experienced actors, and there’s a lot of winging it—but for $15, you get a lot more thrills than cappuccino and cake at Starbucks.
“The Secret Garden,” based on a classic novel of spring, rebirth, and healing, will lift your heart! What a gem of a theatre we have right here on Main Street, Margaretville.

Anne Saxon-Hersh,