Eddie Martinez, Peri Gilpin and Mark Pinter in "Native Gardens." Photo by Jim Cox
Native Gardens tries to both be outrageous and to make trenchant sociopolitical statements about class, race, even politically correct gardening. Neither succeeds in Karen Zacarias’ labored one-act comedy at the Old Globe, where the play was first developed last year at the Powers New Voices Festival. In Native Gardens, a fight over a property line between neighbors turns nasty, then bombastic, then flat-out silly. In this corner: the clueless white GOPers Frank and Virginia Butley (Mark Pinter and Peri Gilpin). And in this corner: modern-thinking young couple Pablo and Tania Del Valle (Eddie Martinez and Kimberli Flores). He’s an ambitious Chilean-born attorney; she a pregnant PhD candidate and proponent of environmentally responsible gardening.
Replete with slow-motion and stop-action double takes, much mugging to the audience and lots and lots of shouting, the Edward Torres-directed Native Gardens hammers into the ground its humor and its message points. What’s more, the impetus for resolution of the neighbors’ conflict is a timeworn cliché. The garden playground for all these histrionics is a beautiful set by Collette Pollard, however, complete with stately oak tree. (Review originally published in San Diego CityBeat on 6/6/18.)
David L. Coddon is a Southern California theater critic.