My Manana Comes Review - Especialidades de la Casa

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin’s poignant tale of New York City kitchen workers at the lowest rung of the kitchen ladder weaves a story that is hard to hear – yet one that goes on in almost every big city in our country. Irwin uncovers the behind-the-scenes life of restaurants everywhere. This is a tale about those busy worker bees who make sure that restaurant patrons leave the table with a full belly and a big satisfied smile. And, if they’re very lucky, these guys get a small share from the tip jar. With 20-20 vision - but also humor - Irwin captures their lives and makes them real.

 

Pablo Castelblanco and Lawrence Stallings - Photo by Ed Krieger

Jorge (Richard Azurdia) and Pepe (Pablo Castelblanco) are two of the four workers in the dark heart of the food mill. Both are Mexican - illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. to find jobs and earn the money that isn’t available to them in their country - Jorge, to send most of his salary back to his family in Mexico and Pepe, to finally experience a little of the life available to those with some cash to spend. Whalid (Peter Pasco) was born in the U.S. of immigrant parents, and he wants so much more than is offered by his dead-end job in the kitchen; his hopes and dreams transcend the narrow confines of his current life. Peter (Lawrence Stallings) is a black American who is happy and content with his job; he has no great aspirations - except perhaps to take his girl and their son to Chucky Cheese occasionally. What happens when the economic downturns we’ve been experiencing over the past several years make business slow and money tight for the restaurant owners? What about people living paycheck to paycheck, when missing even one paycheck can create disaster. And suppose it’s mandatory to downsize? Who will go?

 

Lawrence Stallings, Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, and Peter Pasco - Photo by Ed Krieger

Director Armando Molina helms this production, which is set in the back rooms and kitchen of a popular restaurant. Molina develops four very interesting characters as their lives intersect and they slowly share their fears and fantasies. He has the good fortune to have four very talented actors to make this happen. MY MANANA COMES runs head-on into some of the very controversial issues of today and treats them with sensitivity and compassion. While he toils for dinero in the U.S., Jorge hasn’t seen his children, who are growing up without him, for at least four years. But he must be a man and take care of his obligations - no matter what sacrifices are necessary. Immigration issues, currently a political hot potato, are presented in a very personal no-nonsense way through the eyes of two very simple, hard-working men. And what about Whalid and Peter, who kid around with the Mexicans - but also resent the competition they represent. They’re all at the bottom of the economic heap - but these “real” Americans may finally have someone to look down on. What choices do people have in a time when even the words “La Migra” send people running for cover? This is a timely and important play and well worth the price of admission.

 

Pablo Castelblanco and Richard Azurdia - Photo by Ed Krieger

Michael Navarro’s set does a superb job of putting the audience in the center of the restaurant’s heart. Jennifer Edwards’ lighting is exceptionally interesting. Scene changes are cleverly done by changing lighting and slowing physical movements, choreographed by movement director Sylvia Blush. Dillon Nelson’s props are especially important in maintaining the authenticity of the restaurant’s back rooms. The entire production team does a yeoman’s job of letting the audience peek into the parts of the restaurant they may never see.

 

Pablo Castelblanco, Richard Azurdia, and Peter Pasco - Photo by Ed Krieger

MY MANANA COMES runs through June 26, 2016, with presentations at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, at 3 p.m. on Sundays, and at 8 p.m. on Mondays. The Fountain Theatre is located at 5060 Fountain Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90029. Tickets range from $15 to $34.95 with “Pay-What-You-Can” every Monday night. For reservations, call 323-663-1525 or go online at www.FountainTheatre.com.

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