Lewisville Playhouse has planted the seeds for a thought-provoking comedy with its latest show, “Native Gardens”

Dig into the Collin-Denton Spotlighter’s inside look at Lewisville Playhouse’s production of “Native Gardens.”

Lewisville Playhouse "Native Gardens"
The poster for the Lewisville Playhouse production of “Native Gardens” – Pictures courtesy of Kristal Seid

When friendly neighbors from different backgrounds find themselves at odds over a mismeasured fence line dividing their contrasting gardens, the two couples’ thorny dispute devolves into a comedic commentary on class, privilege and so much more in the latest production at Lewisville Playhouse, “Native Gardens,” by Karen Zacarias.

“This play is just rich in a lot of generational themes, and I think the themes that are in this production are very relevant today with everything going on in the political world,” Wendy Barrett, who plays Virginia Butley in the play, said.

The play follows the Butleys, long-standing members of their community, and their new neighbors, the Del Valles. Barrett described Virgina Butley as an engineer and the “breadwinner” in her relationship with her husband, Frank, played by Paul Niles. Niles said that “mild-mannered” Frank is currently working on his passion project, a garden he hopes will win a local contest.

Galileo Segura and Sydney Aviles play the Butleys’ new neighbors, Pablo and Tania Del Valle. Segura called Pablo a “very career-driven” lawyer who wants to make a name for himself at his firm, while Aviles described Tania as a “strong-willed woman with a kind heart” who’s earned everything she’s worked for. Tania is a doctoral candidate who plans to create a “native garden” on their new property, with Pablo looking to tear down the old fence on the property to erect a brand-new wooden one. The Del Valles are also expecting a child when audiences meet them in the show.

Lewisville Playhouse "Native Gardens"
From Left to Right: Paul Niles, Wendy Barrett, Sydney Aviles and Galileo Segura

If both couples sound like completely reasonable and relatable people, that’s by design. American Theatre notes that Zacarias’ description of each character in “Native Gardens” begins with the phrase “smart, likeable.”  

It’s a choice that goes a long way towards Lewisville Playhouse Director Kristal Seid’s goal of presenting a welcoming and relatable play, even as the central conflict spins the story into an amusingly unneighborly dispute.

The Del Valles discover that the old fence they plan to replace is two feet farther into their property than it should be. If they move the fence to get the space they rightfully deserve, however, it will ruin the Butleys’ garden before Frank’s big contest. Lewisville Playhouse audiences will have a chance to see the flower-filled fracas unfold before their eyes, with a set featuring movable plants and a fence dividing centerstage.

Lewisville Playhouse "Native Gardens"
The Del Valles and the Butleys square off

“One of the things I love about the way (Zacarias) wrote it is that everybody is wrong. They all do wrong things, but they’re all right. They’re all kind in their hearts,” Seid said of the characters in “Native Gardens” and their relatable humanness.

Aviles reflected on her personal similarities to Tania, describing a “deep connection” to the character. “I knew if I was able to play her, I could put some of myself in Tania,” Aviles said, later recalling her family’s own experience encountering discrimination from a neighbor. Although the Del Valles’ experience certainly differs, she felt the opportunity to play Tania “could be a part of a healing process” for her.

“Frank and Virgina are not racist; they’re just blind to their own white privilege,” Niles said of the Butleys. As the play explores heavier societal themes through the comedy unfolding onstage, Barrett and Segura emphasized the importance of the cast staying “real” and “honest” in portraying their characters. “We’re all just people. We make mistakes, but we have ethics, morals (and) emotions that drive us to do the things we do,” Segura said.

Seid called the show’s balance between thoughtfulness and entertainment value “the beauty of a really good story.” She sees “Native Gardens” as the kind of play that will stick with audiences for days or weeks after they see it as it allows them to reflect on their personal lives and the experiences of those around them.

“In a world where we are more connected than ever, we are more disconnected than ever. I think this play is a beautiful story of how if we don’t listen and we don’t try to see each other…through the lens of somebody else that we can really have fractures in our community,” Seid said. “It’s only through trying to understand the other side of the fence, so to speak, that we can learn to live together with our differences.”

The Lewisville Playhouse production of “Native Gardens” runs from April 12-28. For more information, including how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.lewisvilleplayhouse.org/.

These interviews have been edited for clarity.


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