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Review: Native Gardens at the Allen Theatre

By Marissa Defrancesco

Native Gardens, written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Robert Barry Fleming, tells the tale of adjoining backyards and how close spaces can bring out our differences. Born in Mexico, this playwright moved to Boston at the age of 10. Being an immigrant she often felt stereotyped and bullied, and now, she has used her feelings to fuel her writing and Native Gardens has emerged sa one of the top 10 most produced plays of the season. In Native Gardens Zacarias explores what it means to be neighborly while reminding us that despite our differences we can all laugh together.

As you might expect the set for this performance consists of two gardens and the back facades of their corresponding homes. One is very stately and has lush, beautiful gardens. The other is in need of repair but clearly has the potential to be a lovely home. The set largely remains the same through the performance and lighting (Michael Bill) is tactfully used to transition throughout the week. As the play begins the audience is quickly introduced to two very different sets of homeowners (the only four speaking roles in the show).

Pablo (Grayson DeJesus) and his wife Tanya (Natalie Camunas) are new to DC. After years of law school and making a name for himself, Pablo is going for partner at his firm and Tanya is gearing up to defend her doctoral dissertation. This young and cultured power couple have just bought a historic fixer upper in a very exclusive neighborhood. The two are extremely happy and to top it off are expecting their first baby in a few short weeks. After moving in they are ecstatic to get to know their new neighbors Frank and Virginia Butley (Wynn Harmon and Charlotte Mauer). The Butleys have been in DC for ages and are well established members of the community. Virginia was a long time engineer and Frank is a proud and competitive gardener. Things seem to be going well in the neighborhood until Pablo and Tanya begin to renovate their backyard and notice an issue with their property line. A disagreement about fence placement becomes a full blown border war as differences between the two couples become more and more prevalent.

With a lovely set design and rhythmic translations Native Gardens makes for a nice evening out. There are no stand out performances but all the actors work well together to tell an engaging story that leaves audiences remembering that our differences are what make us unique but should never serve as fences to divide us. This show although appropriate for all ages does gear it’s jokes toward a mature audience and is just under 90 minutes from start to finish, no intermission. Performances run through May 19th at the Allen theatre.

Photo Credit: Marissa Defrancesco

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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