“Native Gardens” at Racine Theater Guild

RACINE — In the comedy “Native Gardens,” Norgie Metzinger plays an attorney who may be skilled at practicing law but is lacking in landscaping knowledge.

Hence, his character, Pablo Del Valle, has “a barren backyard.”

That’s something Metzinger can relate to.

“My skill level in landscaping can only be rivaled by my skill level in figure skating,” the veteran community theater actor said. “I’ve never actually been figure skating, but I don’t need to go figure skating to know that I’m just no good at it.

“The tilling of the earth is a passion and skill that many people possess and excel at. I was not blessed with the passion or skill for it.”

In the show, Pablo and his wife, Tania, live next to Frank and Virginia Butley, who have an award-winning garden.

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When Pablo and Tania discover that a portion of Frank and Virginia’s yard actually belongs to them, their friendship turns into what is described as “a side-splitting, back-and-forth mudslinging, all-out turf war.”

It was the sharply written script that attracted Metzinger to the role and not the issue of gardening. Even more important, however, is the type of role he’s playing.

“Theater has been a part of my life since I was very young, and I’ve been involved with Racine Theater Guild for almost 20 years,” he said. “I’ve done lots of shows and played many different roles, but this is the first time in my theatrical life that I get to play a character of Latino/Hispanic descent.

“As a Hispanic person, there’s certainly a degree of gratitude to be able to have that representation. I’m not saying that it means that somehow my acting will be better or that I’m going to be funnier because I get to play someone of Latino/Hispanic descent, but there are many cultural and familial experiences from my own life that lend themselves to this character, representation and the show as a whole.”

Some of the show’s issues, he said, deal with “the apparent dichotomies between people of different races, cultures and upbringings.”

While the play, written by Karen Zacarías, is funny, he added, it has layers to it.

“On the surface, the show is a brisk, entertaining and lighthearted comedic flower. That flower, however, is planted in many raw, topical and sometimes difficult issues,” Metzinger said. “It’s a funny show that audiences can relate to, with issues that split down the middle between the characters and causes the audience to take an objective look at these issues from two very different perspectives.

“This show doesn’t pick sides, nor does it ask the audience to do so. It shines a universal light on many of today’s hot button issues: Politics, class, entitlement, privilege, race, culture, upbringing, stereotypes and basic human Decency It’s a lighthearted comedy, yes, but there are definitely deep roots of subtext, which will make people take a look at themselves and perhaps open the door to meaningful dialogue.

“All in all,” he added, “it’s a show that everyone will enjoy.”

Back on stage

Raquel Wright, who plays Tania Del Valle, is returning to the stage for the first time since high school.

“I’ve always loved the theater, but unfortunately after high school, I never had the time or really a support system to do a show until now,” she said. “My husband is the one who really pushed me to get back out there and do theater again.

“One of our goals is to be in a show on stage together and this is why I’m coming back to the theater now.”

Her character is described as “very pregnant,” which Wright finds playing on stage to be “very weird. I’ve never had children or ever been pregnant before. I didn’t think I would experience being pregnant this soon!”

More importantly, her character “is a strong Latina woman, written by a Latina woman. That’s what drew me in the most. Not a lot of roles are written for Latina actress in theater so this felt like a true honor being cast in this role .”

Like her character, Wright says she lacks landscaping skills.

“My husband, Jonathan, and I bought our first home last year, and our landscaping skills are the worst,” she said. “We’re trying to get better, because we would love to plant flowers and have a nice yard one day.”

Both Wright and Metzinger said the turf was that erupts in this comedy may seem silly, but “you might be surprised by how heated and contentious the arguments can get when it comes to matters of turf,” Metzinger said.

When passions runs high, he added, “that’s certainly something we can all relate to, no matter what the topic is.”

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