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A CurtainUp Review
My Manana Comes
But this is your real life, man, this everybody's real life. Whether this shit for five years, five months, five weeks-this your real life, man. It's what you're living today, right? — Peter
My Manana
Left to right Jose Joaquin Perez, Jason Bowen, Brian Qjuijada, Reza Salazar (Photo: Matthew Murphy)
Perhaps as important as is my positive response to Elizabeth Irwin's play My Manana Comes — super charged with the chaos, conflicts and camaraderie among the busboys at an upscale, upper East Side French restaurant— is acknowledging the commendable on-going mission of an organization called The Playwrights Realm . Irwin is this year's recipient of their Page One Program , dedicated to supporting an up and coming playwright for one year with "a sweep of services to aid in the advancement of their career. These include a competitive stipend, health insurance, travel/professional development funds, a full Off-Broadway production, readings of script(s) in development, theatre tickets and midtown office space."

Under the artistic direction of Katherine Kovner, The Playwright's Realm also provides (as it states) more than just the "development of one play as it provides a comprehensive tool kit a playwright can use to build his or her entire career." CurtainUp reviewed last year's recipient The Hatmaker's Wife

The action, or rather the activities that keep the four busboys in My Manana Comes in constant motion could easily be reconceived as a ballet as they criss-cross, swerve, dodge each other and maneuver their way around the kitchen. Delivering the dishes with panache through the swinging doors to the unseen waiters beyond is as impressive as the characters that have been created by four terrific actors, under the direction of Chay Yew.

Except for the African-American Peter, the three Mexicans are inclined toward motor-mouthed discourse, a perfectly comprehensible mixture of Spanish and English. Looking spiffy in their all-black uniforms (designed by Moria Sine Clinton), they enjoy exchanging compliments as well as ribbing each other's idiosyncrasies. We can see why buoying up each other's spirits is necessary and how it eases the stress of their job, the long hours and pitiful pay.

There is little doubt by his demeanor that Peter (Jason Bowen), a tall, husky African-American in his late 20s is in charge of the busboys given that he has been employed at the restaurant the longest. As such he assumes a managerial command and attitude with regard to the three twenty-something Mexicans, Jorge (Jose Joaquin Perez), Whalid (Brian Quijada), and Pepe (Reza Salazar), two of whom are working illegally. Irwin uses the kitchen environment and its demands on the busboys during the course of a day and over a few weeks as a frame to reveal their background and back-stories each containing elements of heartbreak and humor.

The sudden shifts in mood and into their personal reveries are expertly enhanced by the excellent lighting designed by Nicole Pearce. Lots of invigorating Spanish pop music is integrated between the fast-moving scenes. What triggers a situation close to panic for all of them is hearing that management will no longer offer them shift pay, and that they will have to rely only on the tips from the waiters. Through the playwright's own experiences working in restaurants (as noted in the program), she makes us see how easily a closely-knit family is formed working side by side day by day in the back of a restaurant. Tension and apprehension suddenly fills the dilemma that is created when Peter puts into motion what he feels needs to be done.

As a playwright, Irwin drew from her experiences working in a restaurant to write a very compelling play, about which she says is "about what happens to that part of the restaurant's family - the busboys/runners (those who help servers by bringing out and clearing dishes, among many other things) when the outside world seeps in."

My Manana Comes
By Elizabeth Irwin
Directed by Chay Yew
Cast: Jason Bowen (Peter), Joes Joaquin Perez (Jorge), Brian Quijada (Whalid), Reza Salazar (Pepe)
Scenic Design: Wilson Chin
Costume Design: Moria Sine Clinton
Lighting Design: Nicole Pearce
Sound Design/Composition: Mikhjail Fiksel
Production Stage Manager: Winnie Y. Lok
Assistant Stage Manager: Catherine Lynch
Running Time: 90 minutes no intermission
The Playwrights Realm at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, 416 West 42nd Street (212) 279-4200
Tickets: $25& $35.Student rush: $10.00
Performances: Monday through Saturday at 7:30pm with a special matinee performance on Saturday, September 13th at 2pm.
From 08/26/14 Opened 09/03/14 Ends 09/20/14
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 09/02/14
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