CVRep’s 2021-2022 play season of Hopes, Dreams, and Expectations concludes with Native Gardens by Karen Zacarias, directed by Michael Matthews and starring: Marta Portillo, Andrew Joseph Perez, Dennis Gersten and Janellen Steininger. This 90-minute play is set in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. where two neighboring gardeners initiate a border war, unintentionally taking on issues of gender, class, race, and age. Originally scheduled for a 2019 run-date and postponed by COVID, Native Gardens addresses these social issues, now more heightened post-pandemic.

Tania yearns to build a fence and transform her yard into a native garden of the local region, based on her culture and aesthetic. Neighbor Frank has a more conventional notion of what a garden should look like. Civility and kindness fades, as the gloves come off and the digs start. Frank and Tania ultimately reveal their biases towards each other, when a twist of fate amplifies their conflicting vision for Native Gardens. All emptions are on display for the audience to share, as Tania and Frank struggle to reclaim their humanity, despite learned judgments. Native Gardens will be performed at CVRep, April 12-24, 2022. Tickets are on sale now at or by calling (760)-296-2996 ext. 115.

The Cast

Andrew Joseph Perez stars as high-powered lawyer, Pablo. Perez is an LA-based actor, singer and stuntman. He can be heard narrating audiobooks on Audible and iTunes, and he’s voiced characters in Gundam Seed Destiny, Dragon Pilot, Luis Miguel, Unauthorized Living, Dynasty Warriors 9, and more. He has appeared in In The Heights (Musical Theatre West), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Capital Stage & San Jose Stage), Fiddler on the Roof (Music Circus), The Secret Garden (Mainstreet Theatre) and more. Starring as Pablo’s wife Tania is Marta Portillo. Portillo is an LA-based actor. Her recent credits include: NCIS: Los Angeles, Optika Piñata an immersive theatre experience at the La Jolla Playhouse Pop Up Without Walls event, Señor Plummers Final Fiesta with Rogue Artists Ensemble and Island of the Blue Dolphins with the Laguna Beach Playhouse. Next door neighbors, Frank and Virginia, are played by actors Dennis Gersten and Janellen Steininger. Gersten performed at CVRep in The Chosen and How I Learned to Drive. Some of his theatre credits include: The Hairy Ape and Tempest Redux (Odyssey Theatre), The Cask of Amontillado (The Huntington), Son of a Bitch (Hollywood Fringe), Macbeth Revisited (New American Theatre) and more. Steininger is delighted to make her CVRep debut after patiently waiting two years. Her most well-known appearances include: Maria Vasilyevna Voynitskaya in Uncle Vanya. She has also appeared in the original cast of its precursor, The Wood Demon and A Flaw in The Ointment (The Mark Taper Forum).  Steininger’s television credits include: Sleeper Cell, Roseanne, Strong Medicine and other independent films.


About Director Michael Matthews

Michael Matthews (Director, SDC) is excited to be back at CVRep where he recently staged Good People. Other selected credits include: Matilda (La Mirada), Failure: A Love Story (CTG/Kirk Douglas Theatre). Laguna Playhouse: Barefoot in the Park, The Seafarer, 12 Angry Men, The Graduate (w/ Melanie Griffith), Billy & Ray, and End of the Rainbow (also with La Mirada). Funny Girl (3D Theatricals), Sons of the Prophet (LA Premiere), Psyche: A Modern Rock Opera (World Premiere) Peter Pan: The Boy Who Hated Mothers (LA Premiere), Very Still & Hard To See (World Premiere). Celebration Theatre: Cabaret, Dream Boy (LA Premiere), Bootycandy (LA Premiere), The Color Purple, What’s Wrong With Angry? (LA Premiere), Take Me Out!, The Women of Brewster Place, the Musical (West Coast Premiere), Stupid Kids (LA Premiere), Beautiful Thing, The Bacchae. Broadway: Butley (Assistant Director). International: Sleeping Giant and The Bacchae (Edinburgh Theatre Festival). Michael is the recipient of 2 Ovation Awards and 9 nominations, 1 LA Weekly Award and 2 nominations, 2 NAACP Theatre Awards, 1 Stage Raw Award, 3 Joseph Jefferson Award Nominations, and is the recipient of the 2015 LADCC Award for Career Achievement in Direction.

About the Playwright Karen Zacarías

Karen Zacarías is a Latina playwright who has born in Mexico in 1969. She is known for her play Mariela in the Desert. It was the winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award and a finalist for other prizes. She is one of the inaugural Resident Playwrights at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, and is a core founder of the LatinX Theatre Commons. She is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, DC. Learn more at

COVID-19 Health & Safety Guidelines

CVRep’s top priority is the well-being and safety of patrons, employees and volunteers. Although California has ended its indoor masking requirement for vaccinated people, CVRep will adhere to its COVID-19 policy. All CVRep patrons, staff, and volunteers are required to be fully vaccinated, and must show a picture ID with their vaccination card upon entering the building. It is required that all patrons, staff, and volunteers wear masks at all times during performances.

Coachella Valley Repertory (CVRep) is an equity theater company, designated a Small Professional Theatre under the Actors’ Equity Association. CVRep is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to provide thought provoking theatre of substance. For additional information on CVRep, please visit our website at