The subsistence-wage busboy protagonists of My Mañana Comes are young men the average theatergoer would normally pay not much attention to, which is just one reason why Elizabeth Irwin’s 2014 dramedy proves such an engrossing, eye-opening treat in its Los Angeles Premiere at The Fountain Theatre.
Peter, Jorge, Pepe, and Whalid may be toiling in a Manhattan eatery as upscale as restaurants get, but you’d hardly know it from the nondescript kitchen-adjacent work area where the foursome fold napkins and silverware, fill salt & pepper shakers, slice oranges and limes, etc. in their matching maroon Nehru jackets and slacks.
In fact, there’s nothing about the quartet likely to provoke more than a passing glance from those whose water glasses they refill and whose used tableware they remove as invisibly as humanly possible.
Thanks to Irwin’s remarkable play, however, we get to know—and more importantly, care about—all four of them.
Peter (Lawrence Stallings), the group’s sole African-American, works tirelessly to support his girlfriend Sharee and their five-year-old daughter in West Harlem while plagued by a streak of bad luck that seems unlikely to end any time soon.
Jorge (Richard Azurdia), who’s been living in Corona, Queens since leaving behind a wife and children in Puebla four years ago, sends home a good chunk of his pay while setting aside a nest egg for a return to Mexico he hopes to accomplish before the year is over.
Pepe (Pablo Castelblanco), a recent arrival from Juarez and barely out of his teens, could hardly be more eager to learn or to soak up the culture around him, though unlike his older compatriot, he seems more interested in buying the latest Nikes and splurging on a Heineken than in saving for a rainy day.
Whalid (Peter Pasco) may have Mexican-born grandparents, but the Brooklyn native who dreams of becoming an EMT or working for the MTA didn’t meet another mexicano till leaving Coney Island, which is probably why he seems more at home shooting the breeze with fellow New Yorker Peter than conversando with Jorge and Pepe en español.
Over the course of the several weeks we spend with the four busboys, we discover what makes these proud, hard-working men tick, watch them fret about how many shifts they’ll be assigned (at least there’s shift pay to supplement tips), and witness the crises, minor and major, in each of their lives, one of which tests their unity as a group as it has never been tested before.
My Manana Comes should be required viewing by any Trump or Arizona SB 1070 supporter, each of whom could benefit from attaching names and faces to the nameless, faceless immigrants they seem intent on demonizing. Still, even bleeding-heart liberals can learn a thing or two by spending an hour-and-a-half with Peter, Jorge, Pepe, and Whalid.
That being said, a couple of extended todo-en-español sequences will put non-bilingual speakers at a distinct disadvantage, one that could have been avoided by projected English-language supertitles.
Armando Molina directs My Mañana Comes with sensitivity, nuance, and brio, eliciting one superb performance after another—Stallings’ dynamic, focused Peter, Azurdia’s warmly paternal Jorge, Castelblanco’s adorably naïve Pepe, and Pasco’s edgy, intense Whalid—work made even more remarkable by the virtually nonstop restaurant “business” each one executes with razor-sharp precision.
Days connect seamlessly in My Mañana Comes, thanks to movement director Sylvia Blush’s gracefully, meticulously choreographed scene changes made especially riveting by Christopher Moscatiello’s electrifying sound design and Jennifer Edwards’s equally stunning lighting.
Scenic designer Michael Navarro’s spot-on “upstairs-downstairs” set has been dressed with supreme attention to detail by Dillon Nelson’s impressive array of restaurant paraphernalia. Magdalena Guillen’s costumes add individual touches to each character’s uniform and what lies underneath.
Emily Lehrer is production stage manager. Jeanne Marie Valleroy is assistant stage manager. My Mañana Comes is produced by Stephen Sachs. James Bennett is assiociate producer.
Peter, Jorge, Pepe, and Whalid may have been strangers when we met, but I ended up caring. Spend ninety minutes with them in Elizabeth Irwin’s captivating My Mañana Comes and you too will.
The Fountain Theatre, 5060 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles.
May 9, 2106
Photos: Ed Krieger