Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast

Native GardensFlorida Studio Theatre
William S. Oser | Season Schedule

Also see Bill's reviews of Northside Hollow, How to Use a Knife and Morning after Grace

John Tomas Waite, Carolyn Popp,
Alicia Taylor Tomasko, Alex Teicheira

Photo by Matthew Holler
Florida Studio Theatre continues its Winter Mainstage series with Karen Zacarias' comedy Native Gardens in the Gomperz Theatre. This play first breathed life at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park in 2016 and the playwright's website lists over 10 subsequent regional productions—not bad for a new play.

The scene features the backyards of two adjoining Georgetown, Washington, D.C. homes, one owned by an older couple who have been in the neighborhood for many years and the other belonging to a young upscale couple. The plot is set in motion when the younger couple finds out that the actual property line is two feet into what was believed to be the older couple's yard; putting up a fence along that line would cut through the older man's prized garden. It is a character-driven comedy, on the level of good situation comedy. At moments I imagined it operatic as various parings of two characters engaged in full out duets. There are some underlying serious issues that give the play emotional depth, such as compromise and respect for the feelings of others. I enjoyed the play and audience reaction at the performance I attended was lively.

Florida Studio Theatre's cast is engaging, with Carolyn Pop and John Thomas Waite as the older couple (Virginia and Frank Butley) and Alex Teicheira and Alicia Taylor Tomasko as the younger couple (Pablo and Tania Del Valle). All four are well suited to the characters and the overall onstage chemistry is fine. This is another fine directing job by Kate Alexander.

Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay provide a lavish setting. Frank's garden in full bloom is especially inviting, the trunk of an oak tree in the Del Valle's yard realistic looking. K. April Soroko's costume designs are flattering for the ladies, appropriate for the men. Virginia especially parades a wardrobe of stylish clothing perfectly chosen for a professional woman of some years. Thom Beaulieu designed the lighting and Thom Korp the sound. All the technical elements support the comic tone.

Native Gardens is a fun 90 minutes in the theater. Its tone is decidedly of today, so I suspect it might become hard to produce 10 years or so down the road. But for now it is a fine part of Florida Studio Theatre's Winter Mainstage series.

Native Gardens, through March 25, 2018, at the Gompertz Theater 1241 N. Palm Avenue, Sarasota FL. For tickets and performance information, please call the box office at (941) 366-9000 or visit

Cast (in order of appearance):
Virginia Butley-Carolyn Popp*
Pablo Del Valle-Alex Teicheira*
Tania Del Valle-Alicia Taylor Tomasko*
Frank Butley-John Thomas Waite*
*=Member of Actors' Equity Association