Native Gardens

by Will Demers

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Tuesday April 10, 2018

Anne Scurria, Timothy Crowe. Daniel Duque-Estrada and Maria Gabriela Rosado Gonzalez in "Native Gardens" at the Trinity Rep through May 6.
Anne Scurria, Timothy Crowe. Daniel Duque-Estrada and Maria Gabriela Rosado Gonzalez in "Native Gardens" at the Trinity Rep through May 6.  (Source:Mark Turek)

Everyone tries to be a good neighbor, living in the suburbs you can't help but notice the people living next door to you, and hopefully, you're delighted by their presence. But what if your new neighbors aren't like you? If you truly share nothing in common then how delighted are you going to be to have them so close to your property?

Karen Zacharias' "Native Gardens" sets out to explore the differences between two couples; the elderly Frank Butley (Timothy Crowe) and his wife Virginia (Anne Scurria), and newcomers Pablo Del Valle (Daniel Duque-Estrada) and his wife Tania (Maria Gabriela Rosado Gonzalez). The elder couple has been fixtures in the neighborhood for decades; Frank's backyard garden has been in the running for some local award for years and he's serious about his manicured, pesticide-dependent masterpiece. The younger couple, expecting their first child and having purchased the house next door to the Butleys, is just as serious about their backyard, except they have different plans.

Tania loves their fixer-upper home, and so does Pablo. The yard isn't at all ready for a barbecue, but he's already invited his law firm over for an outdoor gathering. Tania is in the last few weeks of her pregnancy and doesn't think they'll be ready to entertain. After all, they've really just moved in, and six days can't possibly be enough time for Tania to finish her native garden. But they agree to remove a cheap looking chicken wire fence between theirs and the Butley's property and install a fine looking wooden fence. The elder couple is delighted, as this will add substance and style to Frank's garden; but surveyors discover that part of his garden actually belongs to the Del Valle's.

This sets in motion some hilarious moments between the two couples as they wrestle with the hard facts. The fence will decimate some of Frank's garden, and he's not having it. As the Del Valles come to grips with perhaps losing some of their property, the nice exchanges between the two couples become nasty, and some interesting variables come into play. Zacharias' script isn't just funny, it touches on race, privilege and politics, with some basic human emotions thrown in for good measure. We see all the sides as they're laid out for us, but can there be resolution when nobody wants to back down?

Both Gonzalez and Duque-Estrada throw themselves into their roles with vigor. Trinity has seen his talent blossom in other roles, and Brown/Trinity MFA student Maria is quite passionate in her turn as the vibrant Tania. Resident actors Crowe and Scurria are absolutely hysterical as the couple with the manicured lawn; some of the best moments come from them. The magic also wouldn't work if not for Dahlia Al-Habieli's impressive set design, and some inspired lighting as well. Performed without an intermission, "Gardens" will keep your attention in a funny and thoughtful show, definitely a must see.

"Native Gardens" is running through May 6th at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903. For information or tickets, call 401-351-4242 or visit