Friday, April 22, 2016

My Manana Comes (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

Here's an interesting detail.  Until I saw My Manana Comes at the Fountain Theatre, it had been a long time for me since seeing a play entirely about what is a "male" world, a completely masculine POV.  Please don't see this as a complaint one way or another.  I just found it interesting, not least because the playwright in question is a woman--Elizabeth Irwin.

The play takes place in and around the kitchen of a Manhattan restaurant, focusing on the lives of four busboys one summer. 

Credit: Ed Kreiger
Peter (Lawrence Stallings) is a no-nonsense African American focused on his job and providing for his family. Friendly, fun, but very highly strung when things get very tough--as they do.  Jorge (Richard Azurdia) is a notoriously miserly worker, here illegally from Mexico. He is sending every penny he can home, building a house for his wife and children--a house he hopes Peter will one day visit and be treated as an honored guest! Whalid (Peter Pasco) is Mexican American but was born here--full of energy but not that much discipline, full of an ever changing number of plans and so insecure he boasts about every single one. Then there is young Pepe (Pablo Castelblanco), also "illegal" and too easily distracted, eager for the day when his brother can join them.

Now, parenthetically, I'd like to point out the really superb job these four did doing the job of busboy! For much of the play they are in constant motion, doing dozens of little tasks, some of them (like balancing three food-filled plates on one arm) anything but easy but they did it like it was second nature.  Having played a waiter just once on stage, I have some inkling of just how much rehearsal that took!

Credit: Ed Kreiger
More, though, they did their jobs as actors.  At first very little "action" happens, yet we are carried away by the forward momentum of these characters, their hopes and dreams and frustrations. No small feat, but vital because the real conflicts of the show grow a little slowly--and then detonate in a horrific slow motion.  Maybe even more importantly, we continue to care about them.  Yeah, Pepe is kind of stupid, Whalid arrogant jerk, Peter eaten away by envy and even Jorge can be both a prude and sometimes a bit of coward--but none of them are villains.  All are just these guys trying to get by, imperfect but not cruel.

Which makes the drama so much more intense.  Because when the sides break down--when the greed and foolishness of the restaurant owner fractures the world of the kitchen, none of these guys is wrong.  They end up in genuinely deadly conflict, these four who were and should have been friends.

My Manana Comes plays Mondays and Saturdays at 8pm, Saturdays and Sundays at 3pm until June 26, 2016 at the Fountain Theatre 5060 Fountain Ave. (near Normandie) Los Angeles, CA 90029.

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