Sweet, hilarious and all-too realistic, TheatreWorks’ second play of the season, Native Gardens, is sure to be a smash hit.
Native Gardens is about a Hispanic couple, Tania and Pablo, who are moving into a fixer-upper house and expecting their first child. The young couple moves into a neighborhood largely populated by older white families including their new neighbors, Frank and Virginia. When Pablo invites his entire office over to their new house for a barbeque, the couple scrambles to get the backyard presentable. However things get complicated when they discover that the fence on one side of their property is two feet from the property line and the new fence needs to go right through Frank’s award-aspiring flowerbeds.
The play expertly plays with opposites in both familiar and unexpected ways. Young and old, white and non-white, Democratic and Republican, growing up with privilege and the lack there of, are all smartly debated throughout the show. Each dichotomy is cleverly set up through the allegory of native vs. traditional gardening techniques to show the differences between the neighbors.
Still, despite the heaviness and importance of the topics it discusses, the show never feels heavy or preachy. Instead, it offers the audience a chance to laugh at the things that divide our society.
I usually do a bit of reading before I walk into a new play, but, for a variety of reasons, I didn’t get a chance to do so before Native Gardens. As a result, I didn’t realize before hand how much I would have in common with the characters. Both my plus one and I are avid gardeners with a passion for native plants and have been involved in a property line dispute. Due to this experience, when we sat down, my companion’s first words were that the dividing line between the two properties on stage was off center.
The play is tightly written and fun, despite the seriousness of the topics it tackles. Although not always reasonable, the show is always fun. Events escalate quickly for comedic effect and there are at least two possible solutions to resolve the situation peacefully. Still, as long as you’re willing to set aside your problem-solving skills for a bit, the turn of events seems perfectly natural, if a little extreme.
TheatreWorks’ production of Native Gardens is playing now through September 16, 2018 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View. Tickets range $40-$100 with discounts available for students, seniors, educators, groups and patrons under 35. The show runs about one hour and 25 minutes and has no intermission.
Photos courtesy of Kevin Berne