Runs at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood through June 20th
By Luis Torres
If you’re seeking a satisfying evening at the theater you would do well to head to the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood and take in a thoughtful, humorous and engaging play titled My Mañana Comes. It will likely make you laugh – and make you think.
Written by Elizabeth Erwin and directed by theater veteran Armando Molina, the play provides a fertile framework to allow Latino and African American actors to demonstrate their talent and unquestioned professionalism. Richard Azurdia, Pablo Castelblanco, Peter Pasco and Lawrence Stallings breathe forceful life into their roles as busboys in a bustling ritzy New York City restaurant. They are all, in their own ways, seeking some small slice of the American Dream as they develop camaraderie among their “team” and struggle with capitalist economic and social forces that work to crush their spirits and diminish their dignity. Adding simmering heat to the tension of the environment is the fact that some of the characters are undocumented workers.
“The fact that they are undocumented – from Mexico working technically ‘illegally’ in the United States – is part of the big turn in the action of the play,” says director Armando Molina.” But the play isn’t merely about the issue of immigration. The characters, demonstrably made of flesh and bones and soul, are revealed as whole human beings – complex and unpredictable. The actors in the play do an exemplary job of breathing multi-dimensional humanity into the characters they portray in My Mañana Comes.
In another life, playwright Elizabeth Erwin worked in restaurants and lived for a time in Mexico City. She drew from those experiences in crafting the play. The characters she created are rooted in a gritty realism. “When I first read the script I thought, my God, this is great – I was taken right away by the authenticity and the voice of the piece,” says Molina. He adds: “She captured the voices and the realities and the specifics of that milieu so well. I was immediately taken by it – this is the kind of work I like to do, these kinds of plays.”
Molina says, “The play speaks to the immigrant experience and the notion of the ‘other’ and so I thought it was a very powerful piece.”
The piece is a bit evocative of Barbara Ehrenreich’s classic investigation of wage inequality and workplace struggles documented in the book Nickel and Dimed. A play about the struggles for fairness and dignity by restaurant workers emerged from that book as a successful play several years ago. And going back further in the literature, Our Mañana Comes is a bit reminiscent of the British Upstairs, Downstairs drama about the symbiotic but often uneasy relationship between those of the manor and their servants. The action in Our Mañana Comes takes place wholly “downstairs”, that is, in the kitchen behind the façade of the fancy restaurant. We get to see the action “back stage,” as it were. And the actors, without exception shine in their rolls.
Why is it Hollywood producers seem to believe there are no Latino stories and there are no Latino actors worthy of the big screen?
Molina says, “The biggest challenge and the biggest satisfaction for me was in the effort to tell a story that’s not often seen on the stage. And with people who are not often represented on the stage.” He’s proud of the production, and justifiably so. He says, “It’s great to present these characters on stage as complex, three-dimensional human beings.”
My Mañana Comes is at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood through June 20.
Luís Torres is a Los Angeles based journalist and author.