GableStage’s Native Gardens Delights in Brilliant Ironies

Irony is one of the most sophisticated tools of humor. It’s up there with sarcasm and a good pun. It makes you think and appreciate the humor in contradiction. Native Gardens, the final play of GableStage’s 2022-23 calendar, delivers a brisk, crisp, biting comedy loaded in hilarious ironies sure to leave audiences delighted.

The premise of the play is as follows.

Pablo and Tania Del Ville, a young Latinx couple, move into a new house in the D.C. area. The house is a fixer upper. They are millennials and Democrats. He’s a lawyer, born in Chile. She’s pregnant and earning her PhD in Anthropology.

Next door live Frank and Virginia Butley. They’re the friendly, older, white, Republican, Boomer neighbors.

She’s an engineer. He’s retired from government work.

Frank is obsessed with his beautiful award-winning garden. There is a rickety fence that divides the backyards.

The play is set in the backyards of the two houses.

It must be noted that the set design of this play is the most ambitious and beautiful design you will see in local regional theater. It’s awesome.

This play is awesome. And again, mainly because of how irony is used as a premise.

Let’s make a little list of some of the ironic premises employed.

  1. The garden. Frank’s garden is pretty but filled with invasive plants that require much care and pesticides. It’s harmful to the environment. Tania also has a green thumb and loves gardening. Her new garden is filled with ugly but indigenous native plants. In other words, the minority, or new girl on the block, and outsider, is taking it back to the way it was.


  1. The fence. A young Latin couple with ties to Mexico (on Tania’s side) is building a fence to essentially keep out the undesirables (via the horticulture of the Bentley’s).


  1. The property line. The older white Bentley couple are nice. They are. But they also accidentally have infringed on their neighbor’s land, by two feet, or 81 square feet, worth about $38,000. Not their fault. The fence was already there. But ignorance is bliss, right? And in that infringement lies Frank’s prized garden, land which their neighbors actually own. It’s a central problem in the play. And what is the solution for the Bentley’s: Squatter’s Rights. The old, rich, white, Republican couple are claiming Squatter’s Rights. Ironic.


  1. Entitlement. Who’s entitled to what actually? The most entitled character in the play is the only first-generation immigrant, Pablo Del Ville, whom growing up in Chile was extremely rich and privileged with chauffeurs and nannies and such. Entitlement is a major theme in this play…


  1. The Tree. It’s old. It’s rooted. It’s been there. So who loves it and who hates it. Go see and find out.


  1. This play opened in Miami on June 10, 2023, in the middle of National Gardening Week. It’s an actual thing we are not even sure GableStage knew about.       

Native Gardens Now Playing

Irony is great as a premise. But what fills a premise in writing is dialogue and plot and character. Native Gardens does not have the best dialogue or plot but it’s above average. Still, it’s a little flat at times (dialogue, plot) and gimmicky (i.e., the Jaws and “Bad to the Bone” homages — although The Godfather homage was epic).

Native Gardens is funny but it’s not hilarious, not at all. The play is also a little rushed at times, especially at the end. Native Gardens is probably a 3.5 out of 5 star play.

But, as far as the production put on by our beloved GableStage, it’s so delightful.

Local audiences will enjoy this play. The acting is great, especially Diana Garle’s performance as Tania. And again, you will not see a better set design in a local theater house in South Florida. And, as always, a trip to the Gables and the Biltmore is a trip to Florida heaven.

Be smart. Arrive early. Grab a bite or a drink at the Biltmore. Make it a night or a day if a matinee. Support local arts! And enjoy this delightful ironic romp.

Native Gardens is now playing at GableStage. For more info and tickets click here…

photo by Magnus Stark

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J.J. Colagrande

Has written about Miami culture for almost twenty years, first with The Miami Herald, then Miami New Times and Huffington Post. He's the publisher of The Jitney and a full-time professor.