There’s no dancing at all in Elizabeth Irwin’s moving play “My Mañana Comes,” but nevertheless the choreography is delightful. Four men whose job title identifies them as “busboys” spend their lives in the kitchen of a posh restaurant on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, pirouetting around each other, artfully passing plates, empty and filled with food, and managing not to crash into one another.
But mostly they talk. They share their life stories, their hopes and dreams, and their fears. They are thoughtful, bombastic, and troubled. And also, incredibly funny.
Their leader is Peter (Lawrence Stallings, making his L.A. stage debut). He is African American, intelligent, responsible, and constantly worried about providing for the needs of his wife and daughter on the meager minimum wage salary and unpredictable tips that he earns at the restaurant. He is also distressed by his awareness of the lack of respect and dignity that people in his circumstances are accorded by an indifferent public.
The other three men are Mexican, although Whalid (Peter Pasco) didn’t discover that fact until he was eight years old. (He thought he was Puerto Rican.) The most animated and playful of the bunch, he is preoccupied with women and beer.
Jorge and Pepe (Richard Azurdia and Pablo Castelblanco) are undocumented workers, insecure in English. A number of their exchanges are in Spanish, and although the words are untranslated, they are easily understood. Also, for Angelenos, who are often familiar but not fluent in the language, it is an additional engaging challenge to be able to figure out the exact phrases for themselves.
Jorge came to America to earn enough money to buy a house in Mexico for his wife and children. Although he has saved practically every nickel so as to be able to return to them a hero, he has been away far longer than he had anticipated (four long years) and grieves that his children no longer remember him.
The youngest member of the group, Pepe, on the other hand, though he shares the inadequate wages that they all struggle with, is thrilled to be in New York and fantasizes about the day that he will have enough money to send for his younger brother. He is often the butt of well-meaning jokes by the other three men, and because he usually doesn’t understand the humor he takes his cues from them and laughs when they do.
It’s a wonderful, powerful play, beautifully staged and directed by Armando Molina, who is currently the artistic director of Company of Angels and co-founder of Latins Anonymous, a critically acclaimed Latino comedy group.
In addition, Michael Navarro has designed a complete, clean and well-stocked kitchen area in which the “busboys” spend their depressingly long and tedious work shifts. Navarro is aided by Dillon Nelson, who gathered the props and dressed the stage.
Jennifer Edwards’ innovative lighting design is an additional asset as well, changing the lighting to a luminous nighttime blue to indicate the ending of each day, and although I noted earlier that there is no dancing in this play, Sylvia Blush is credited with being the movement director. Which certainly explains the graceful and creative ways that the four exceptionally fine actors journey back and forth across the stage.
“My Mañana Comes,” will be presented Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. through June 26. In addition, there will be “pay what you can” performances every Monday at 8 p.m.
The venue is the comfortable Fountain Theater, located at 5060 Fountain Ave. (Fountain at Normandie) in Los Angeles. To make reservations, call (323) 663-1525 or online at www.FountainTheatre.com.