"Native Gardens" Review

Have you ever had a border dispute with a neighbor? Was it over yard mess, encroaching plant life, or was it about the location of a property line?

These neighborly disputes are the backdrop for Native Gardens, the very funny comedy kicking off BAT’s 40th season! Native Gardens begins by introducing two couples; Pablo and Tania Del Valle (played by Jesse Calixto and Ashley Salazar), new homeowners from out of town, and their next door neighbors Frank and Virginia Butley (played by John Murray and Connie Murray).

Pablo and Tania are new homeowners in a suburb in the DC area. Excited about their future, the very pregnant Tania explains her idea to create a native garden in the back yard. Likewise, Pablo is also excited to make an impact at the firm he was just hired at. Even though the yard is unkempt, Tania is still optimistic about the beauty she foresees in it, but first she’s got to get rid of that ugly chain link fence that divides the property with their neighbors. Soon after Pablo comes home from work and tells Tania that he’s invited the office over for a barbecue the following weekend. He explains it’s to help him become a named partner for the firm, so everything has to go well to help him impress his new co-workers.

Enter Frank and Virginia who invite the Del Valle’s to join them for introductions. Over some drinks the Del Valle’s and the Butley’s hit it off. Frank, whose garden is on full display is excited about the new fence giving him a chance to win the annual garden competition; and Virginia is happy about having a new family next door.

The next day Pablo and Tania measure their yard for the new fence and discover that the property line extends about 2 feet over the existing fence line. This quickly creates a rift between the neighbors as feud begins over the placement of the new fence line, that runs right through one of Frank’s flowerbeds.

Native Gardens is a fun and humorous story that wonders whether or not fences make good neighbors. The dialog does a good job of exploring cultural differences, identity, current events, and philosophies of gardening. The characters are real and relatable in their interactions with each other and key moments are punctuated with perfect comedic timing.

The set brings Frank’s vivid garden to life (set by Albie Clementi), and highlights the differences between the two couples. No detail is left out, and it truly transforms the stage into a pair of suburban backyards (set dressing and props by Cyndi Baumgardner), complete with a very realistic looking oak tree.

The stage is well lit (lighting by Ruben Pina), and everything can be heard clearly (sound by Eric Dickman). The music that plays between scenes is Mexican Baroque or New Spain Baroque, which helps keep the pace during scene changes.

Rochelle Flynn and Maggie Larrick have done an excellent job at co-directing Native Gardens and its talented, and very funny cast.

Native Gardens is showing at the Burien Actors Theatre from Sept. 27th through Oct. 20th. Show times begin at 8 PM Friday and Saturday evening, and 2 PM on Sundays. The BAT is located at 14501 4th Avenue SW in Burien. Tickets are $10 for students, $20 for seniors and active military and $25 for everyone else. Parking is free.

The Burien Actors Theatre has been performing shows in the Puget Sound area for over 35 years, and is a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity that relies heavily on ticket revenue, donations and volunteer help.

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