.‘Native Gardens’ Planted at 6th Street

North Bay theaters seem to be in the middle of a Karen Zacarías mini-festival with the Ross Valley Players well-received run of the playwright’s The Book Club Play coming to an end while Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse is in the middle of their run of Native Gardens.

Both plays poke fun at suburban life while slyly introducing grander concepts beneath their comedic surface. Gardens is running on 6th Street’s Monroe Stage through June 16.

The play is set entirely in the backyards of two adjoining homes situated in a quiet Washington, DC suburb. Long-time residents Frank and Virginia Butley (Ron Smith and Sheila Lichirie) are delighted to welcome new neighbors Pablo and Tania Del Valle (Lorenzo Alviso and Lexus Fletcher) to the neighborhood.

music in the park san jose
music in the park san jose

Frank is a retired DC bureaucrat, while Virginia is an engineer with a defense contractor. Pablo, a Chilean immigrant, is an attorney who’s just joined a prestigious firm, while the very pregnant Tania, a New Mexican-American, is trying to finish a doctorate program.

In an attempt to impress his new employers, Pablo has invited the entire firm to a barbecue at their new home. Fixing up their backyard means getting rid of a rickety old fence that separates the two properties. It also means disturbing Frank’s potentially prize-winning flower garden. Hell hath no fury like a gardener scorned. The neighborly dispute soon turns into an all-out war.

Zacarías uses the cartoonish dispute to address issues of immigration, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and more, and all in a breezy 85 minutes.

Director Beulah Vega has cast the show well. North Bay stage veterans Smith and Lichirie are solid as the older couple. Alviso, regularly seen in local musicals, does well as the ambitious, stressed-out counselor. Fletcher, a fairly recent addition to the local casting pool, is showing impressive growth as a performer.

Ben Roots clearly had fun with the sound design, as scenes are bridged with Spanish versions of recognizable American songs.

The show’s set budget must have been spent on the houses’ facades, as the focal points of the dispute—the dilapidated chain link fence and the garden—are woefully inadequate. A chain-link fence clearly isn’t, and the flowers are represented by small, painted flats. The usually inventive Luca Catanzaro’s design really misses the mark here.

The play’s ending is a bit pat, but Native Gardens’ amusing trip through suburbia is a good enough reason to get out of your yard and go to the theater.

‘Native Gardens’ runs through June 16 on the Monroe Stage at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. 6th Street, Santa Rosa. Thurs-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm. $29–$45. 707.523.4185. 6thstreeetplayhouse.com.

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