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THE GARDEN

Charlayne Woodard‘s new play THE GARDEN, now playing at La Jolla Playhouse through Oct 17th, proves that relationships are like gardens; they need to be tended regularly in order to flourish. Featuring dynamic performances THE GARDEN is a moving play that is not to be missed.

Photo Credit: Charlayne Woodard, left, and Stephanie Berry in La Jolla Playhouse's world premiere play "The Garden."(Rich Soublet II)
Photo Credit: Charlayne Woodard, left, and Stephanie Berry in La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere play “The Garden.”(Rich Soublet II)

The play opens as the sun rises on a gorgeous garden setting, and the audience sees Clarie Rose (Stephanie Berry) starting to tend and harvest her garden. She has barely begun when she has a visitor. Her daughter Cassandra (Charlayne Woodard) has arrived unexpectedly and wants to talk after a three-year-long estrangement.

A co-production with Baltimore Center Stage, THE GARDEN was co-directed by two stellar directors, Patricia McGregor and Delicia Turner Sonnenberg. Between their direction and the excellent performances from Berry and Woodard, this one-act keeps the audience’s attention and emotions engaged from the start.

Cassandra has decided it is time for them to clear the air, which means lancing some old wounds and discussing hard topics that have been avoided. At first, they have to navigate each other in conversation very carefully, as years of silence, and separation need to be cleared away before they can get to the real issues.

Claire Rose and Cassandra are more similar than they would like to admit – stubborn, convinced they are right, and haunted by traumatic events in their past. They have both caused pain through their desire to protect, as well have been denied opportunities or information that could have changed the path of their journey.

They both also found solace in working in their garden, tending plants, and creating order out of nothing more than dirt and hard work. Their conversation has plenty of warmth, love, and humor, and equally doesn’t shy away from hard-hitting truths and emotions.

Photo Credit: Charlayne Woodard, left, and Stephanie Berry in La Jolla Playhouse's world premiere play "The Garden."(Rich Soublet II)
Photo Credit: Charlayne Woodard, left, and Stephanie Berry in La Jolla Playhouse’s world premiere play “The Garden.”(Rich Soublet II)

The garden set by Rachel Hauck is beautiful and the perfect place for this conversation. The garden may be a place where they both have found solace, but this garden offers them the space to circle warily, sit and reminisce, lash out, and even take themselves out of the situation by sitting in corners or distract themselves with watering cans and gardening tools. The leaves occasionally fall reminding the audience that winter is coming, so you have to harvest both vegetables and relationships before they’re no longer salvageable.

Costumes by Karen Perry, lighting design by Sherrice Mojgani (a UC San Diego graduate), sound by Luqman Brown, and original music by Kirsten Childs help create this beautiful world.

I don’t want to share specifics of the plot to avoid spoilers and to also avoid giving anything away that may ruin the rhythm and emotional build of the show.

The show is mostly told through their conversation, with some direct asides from each woman to the audience. There are a lot of twists and turns as reveals are confessed and emotions shared. It might benefit from trimming some of the asides and potentially one less reveal in order for the final moments to hit even harder.

THE GARDEN is a moving piece and had the opening night audience riveted throughout and ready to jump to their feet to applaud. Playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through October 17th you can get ticket and showtime information at www.lajollaplayhouse.org

The La Jolla Playhouse is requiring all audience members to show proof of vaccinations and wear a mask at all times indoors to attend this performance.

Parking is impacted due to construction and the lots near the Playhouse are not available;. . Free parking will be offered in the Osler Parking Structure, at the corner of Gilman and Scholars Drive. Complimentary shuttles will make ongoing runs between Osler and the Playhouse before and after performances. Masks are required to ride the shuttle.

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