By Grace Bromage ’22
If you were in the Pit in O’Kane on December 5-7 at 7:30 or December 7-8 at 2:30, the sound of laughter was not out of place. What was causing this laughter was The Secret Life of Plants, an original play written by senior Noah Mailloux. The play draws audience members into the lives of the Gardner family and tells the tale of family love and loss and the relationships we build with each other.
Emma Kennelly plays Rosie Gardner, a young woman who lives in the apartment she has lived in since she was a girl. She took care of her father for years before his passing and now lives with her best friend, Paul Nelson. Paul Nelson, played by Conor Keane, is an aspiring actor, who is not always kind to fellow actors who have lived in their apartment building. Dane Anderson plays Moss Gardner, Rosie’s brother, who comes back into her life after being gone for six years, during which time their father passed away. Emily Bouzan plays Jules a girl from Cincinnatti who moves next door as the play begins. She is an aspiring actress who gets dragged into the drama of the Gardner’s apartment. Brendan Ryan plays Devin, an electrician who plumbs and has a thing for Rosie.
The play starts with Moss Gardner coming home after six years, with a housewarming plant in hand. The terse meeting he has with Rosie escalates to Rosie and Jules believing that Moss Gardner is a hitman out for blood, after finding a cellphone, cash, and list of names hidden in the plant Moss gave Rosie. It is revealed that Moss’s secret is not that he is a killer, but that he is the famous writer Roger Pyburn, whom Rosie’s father loved, and that he left because his father disapproved of him wanting to be a writer. In the tear-jerking ending, Paul and Rosie reveal that Moss and Rosie’s father was proud of Moss, even if he didn’t always show it. In this bittersweet ending, Rosie demands a simple apology from her brother for not coming back while he argues that he always supported her through his writing. Rosie gets her apology at the end and both she and Moss reflect on their lives and who they are as people, ending the play ready to be back in each other’s lives.
The actors all did amazing jobs. Between their spoken words to the nervous ticks they displayed during tense scenes, the actors transported audience members into the world of the Gardner siblings for a brief moment of time. The characters were not without their flaws and the actors brought them to life in a way that was enjoyable to watch.
For a large part of the play, the audience was in a constant state of laughter. Facial expressions of the cast when the drama unfolded or the quippy one-liners of the characters, kept the audience laughing. For all the laughs the audience members gave, tears were also shed in this moving performance. While the play uses humor in many scenes, it did not shy away from sentimental scenes. While not everyone can relate to having a father die and brother who disappeared for six years, people understand what it is like to lose loved ones through death and estrangement.
Mailloux may have written The Secret Life of Plants about the struggles of the Gardner family, but the themes of familial love, loss, and reconciliation concepts that all audience members can relate to. With such great writing, casts, sets, props, technical work, and themes, it is ludicrous to imagine that anyone could dislike it.
Photos by Kim Fetherston ’22.