Orlando Shakespeare Theater, Orlando, FL
by Karen Zacarias
directed by Jim Helsinger
If there’s one piece of advice that gets drilled into everyone, it’s “Never give an actor a real chain saw.” On our left tonight we find the Right Wingers. On the right, the Left Wingers. In the middle, some innocent begonias and some ill-placed fence, and overhanging them all we see the coolest stage tree ever. But beyond that decoration lurks the eternally conflicted American Dream: “I got mine, you go home.” Our stakes are low, making the fight much more bitter.
The Butley’s, Virginia and Frank (Kate Ingram and Michael Edwards) face a Pinteresque menace: Spanish speaking people. Tania e Pablo Del Valle (Aléa Figueros and Freddy Ruiz) moved into their exclusive lily-white DC neighborhood. Worse, they have a plot survey showing they own two feet of the Butly’s begonias due to sloppy fence building by a previous owner. We fight in all four directions: family to family, man to man, woman to woman, and husband to wife. Pablo comes from money and plans to make partner in a law firm by curtain, Tania gardens responsibly and works on her babies, Virginia engineers for large aerospace shop, and Frank battles a better gardener across the street. The dialog snaps, the jokes land, and these four comic actors deliver every gag with force and timing.
Naturally, there’s a happy ending, we get to as a flash back so there’s no need to show the details. What weakness I find here lies in the neat packaging of the politics. Like nearly every other modern “political” play the characters all fall into stereotype: the right wingers wave their flag themed undies, the left wingers bleed blue everywhere and every political fight can only be winner take all. True, compromise was found tonight, but only on the nonpolitical issues: what plants to plant, what type of wood to build the fence with, chardonnay or Pino Noir. The politics remain as segregated as 1950 Alabama, and no one is about to reconsider core beliefs. Go for the tree, go for the gags, go for the great performances but don’t look for subtly in the political arguments .