When new homeowner Tania—thirtyish, pregnant, a doctoral candidate and Latina—describes the native garden of indigenous plants she hopes to cultivate in her backyard, next-door neighbor Frank—60ish, retired, white and insecticide-happy tender of a manicured English garden of foreign flora—thinks Tania’s vision “sounds very exotic.” Karen Zacarías’s 2016 comedy is lush with such pinpricks of our ingrained assumptions.
Tania and her husband Pablo, a corporate lawyer trying to impress his firm, hope to throw a backyard barbecue days after moving in, while Frank and his wife Virginia, an engineer and defense contractor, are looking forward to finally having a chance to win the neighborhood garden society’s top prize. A discrepancy over their shared property line soon throws niceties out the window.
Zacarías’s plotting doesn’t surprise much, but where her comedy really blooms is in the dialogue and the details—both cultivated with consideration by director Marti Lyons and a blue-ribbon cast, who sow a healthy sense of the precariousness of politeness, particularly when race, class and age are in the mix.
Victory Gardens Theater. By Karen Zacarías. Directed by Marti Lyons. With Janet Ulrich Brooks, Patrick Clear, Paloma Nozicka, Gabriel Ruiz. Running time: 1hr 25mins; no intermission.