If you haven’t seen Native Gardens at the Guthrie, then make your way there for 90 minutes of refreshing enjoyment. This acclaimed comedy was staged for the first time just last year at the Cincinnati Playhouse. Blake Robison, who commissioned and directed the Ohio production, has also helmed the Guthrie presentation. The setting is the backyards of two neighboring couples in an elite section of Washington, D.C. designed to contrasting and lovely effect by Joseph Tilford.
Playwright Karen Zacarias examines the egos, territoriality, and differing values between an older white couple and a younger Latino couple whose next door proximity triggers some of each one’s lesser angels. Newcomers to the neighborhood, Tania and Pablo Del Valle, are on a fast track to have their back yard whipped into shape for an upwardly mobile barbecue for big shots from Pablo’s law firm.
The younger folks’ ecological sensitivity clashes with Frank and Virginia Butley, whose classic English-style garden reflects their more constricted life view. Things intensify when it is discovered that the Del Valle’s property line actual includes part of the Butleys’ garden—something the older folks had never realized.
Remarkably evenhanded, Native Gardens could have you going back and forth between which couple you side with and which one you don’t. This quality is owed primarily to the masterfully nuanced Zacarias and reinforced by Robison’s wonderful acting quartet. The charming Jacqueline Correa and Dan Domingues as the Del Valles play off each other vibrantly and are matched perfectly against Sally Wingert and Steven Hendrickson as the Butleys. We feel pangs for the older duo as their pat assumptions are whisked away by the volatility of our times.
Through Aug. 26
Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St., Minneapolis