Stanford-alum Zacarias has set up her two couples to be a study in contrasts, right down to their backyard styles. Consultant Frank and defense-contractor Virginia are, although not yet retired, heading toward senior citizenship, white, Republican and deeply entrenched in their community. Frank has dedicated much of his leisure time to cultivating his formal garden, keeping it groomed, insecticid-ed and obsessively tended to near-perfection.
The Del Valles are young, hip and Latinx. He hails from Chile while she grew up in New Mexico. He's a rising-star attorney and she's an anthropology doctoral student, due with their first child in a matter of weeks. Well-versed in ecology, Tania has big plans to turn her new, neglected backyard into a native garden, supporting local plants and wildlife according to environmentally friendly principles. At the heart of it all is a large oak tree, which is Tania's pride and joy.
The Butleys are horrified by her plans to allow what they see as weeds flourish and tell her the tree needs to go (its acorns litter their neat and tidy lawn; they chopped theirs down years ago). In return, Tania is appalled at their water-gobbling, non-pollinator-helping garden and makes sure to lecture them about it. But still, they all strive to keep civil and pleasant until the issue with the disputed property line arises.
As their feud heats up, the play heads into a farcical direction. It also puts the Del Valles in the unfamiliar position of becoming "The Man" while the conservative, privileged Butleys become the protesters invoking squatters' rights and defending "foreigners" (their non-native plants). "Native Gardens" runs through Sept. 16 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (500 Castro St.). Tickets are $35-$75. Go to theatreworks.org.
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