“My Mañana Comes” at Arts West

Enter the kitchen of almost any up-scale Manhattan restaurant and one of the things you are bound to see is the scramble to achieve the American dream. The dishwashers and busboys are likely to be immigrants, both documented or undocumented, or they’re members of other ethnicities on the bottom rungs of society. They have dreams, hopes for a better life, but you know few will achieve them.

So it is with the busboys in “My Mañana Comes” by Elizabeth Irwin, directed here by Mathew Wright. Three Mexicans, two of whom are undocumented and an African American from Harlem work harmoniously chopping lemons, wrapping napkins and cutlery, taking out the garbage, bringing the plated dishes to the out-of-view waiters, and doing all the underling chores that keep a restaurant running.

There’s an easy camaraderie among them. Joshua Chessin-Yudin, Santino Garcia, Chris Rodriguez, and Tyler Therise fill the roles well. They move easily from hopefulness to frustration, yet always they do their jobs to the best of their ability despite the insecurities that come with their low status. Management needs them, but they need the jobs even more. There’s no safety net for the illegals and little to fall back on for the others.

Their wages plus tips are barely enough to scrape by on, yet they dream. They have ambitions, some so modest it’s almost heartbreaking because you know there’s little likelihood they will achieve even them. The system seems designed to hold them back. Any thoughtless misstep can and does bring devastating results on this stage.

The play is as much a sociology lesson as a theatrical experience. There are few dramatic arcs. Plates are run in and out of the kitchen; the floor is mopped; the place is cleaned, again and again. It’s tedious work leading nowhere for these pawns in the system. You ache for their naiveté and society’s callousness. Yet in such an environment some do figure out how to survive. Others don’t.

It’s the dialog that provides the power of the piece. Sadly I found it difficult to understand some of it, and I heard others mention the same problem. Was it the accents or the sound system? I don’t know, but I hope it can be corrected for the rest of the run.

Through Nov. 22 at Arts West, 4711 California Ave., SW, Seattle, (206 938-0338 or www.artswest.org).

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