May 7, 2019 0 Comments Reviews

Review: Native Gardens at the Aurora Theatre

The Aurora Theatre’s latest play, Native Gardens is the timeliest play you’ll find in Georgia. Native Gardens confronts the audience and makes us look at both sides of the story, or in this instance, both sides of the fence.The Karen Zacarias play tackles ageism, geopolitical rights, classism, and the ideas of what we’re used to and how it should be. 

In this piece, gardening is the best way to present political ideas without alarming your audience, Slowly we engage topics like “borrowed” or stolen land, and how we engage with the people that unknowingly benefit from it or the people that its detrimental to. It’s smart writing and a beautiful piece of theatre to represent the world’s current climate.

It’s interesting to see this side of a political conversation in theatre.

In recent history, every political show I could think of had something to do with the murders of young black men and sex trafficking. Native Gardens takes a different stand, an environment forward stand.

“Pablo, a high-powered lawyer, and doctoral candidate Tania, his very pregnant wife, are realizing the American dream when they purchase a house next door to community stalwarts Virginia and Frank. But a disagreement over a long-standing fence line soon spirals into an all-out war of taste, class, privilege, and entitlement. The hilarious results guarantee no one comes out smelling like a rose.”

Their problem seems simple enough, the fence is in the wrong place and the De Valles want it moved to the original property lines. Which would normally be no problem but Frank Butley, their next-door neighbor, is an aspiring neighborhood gardening champion. This fence is in the middle of his contending garden on the weekend of the competition, which means its moving would cost him the competition.

With tensions beginning to rise, the issues become more complex. One of the best moments of the show comes when Tania says “You have because you have. You’re used to it.” That lines transcends the show, the plot, or even what’s happening inside the theatre and echoes the sentiments of people of color everywhere. You have because you’ve always had it. It’s Tania’s moment to say you’re used to it and when the millennial kids of color move in and want what’s rightfully theirs, it’s disruptive to their lives.

This production is gorgeous!

This set by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay is the best set I’ve seen at the Aurora since In the Heights. It’s a stunning production, one of my favorite moments comes on the back end of the show. One of the scenes between the Butleys and De Valles takes place simultaneously between Day and night. That’s where Ben Rawson’s lighting design shines the brightest. He perfectly captures every detail of the set pieces in both the day and night. It truly enraptures the audience.

Anthony Rodriguez and Ann Carol-Pence (The Aurora’s artistic directors) nailed it with this show. One of the best parts of this show is the audience mirrors the two parties onstage. It does. At the performance I attended, you could tell there were people that related deeply to Virginia and Frank and their fight for the land they’ve always known to be theirs. Then there were audience members like me, that’d sided with the De Valles fight for what’s theirs. This play is a beautiful written piece which is summed up in one quote.

“Native is not exotic.”

It’s simple. It’s not exotic and it has a purpose in our ecosystem. Old neighborhood, new neighbors but one thing is the same. The soil and the plants that grow there. They serve their purpose as native plants, so why can’t we treat our native people the same way? The show deals with border politics, ageism, sexism, racism, and everything in between. Native Gardens runs through June 2nd at the Aurora Theatre. Click here to buy tickets and when you visit the show use the hashtags #ATnativegardens #AuroraTheatre and tag @AuroraTheatre!