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My Manana Comes: When You're the Lowest on the Food Chain

Leslie Swackhamer
Leslie Swackhamer
Photo courtesy of Stages Repertory Theatre
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One of the biggest challenges for the actors in My Manana Comes was learning to do all the jobs that busboys have to do every day, says director Leslie Swackhamer.

"Napkins folded, limes cut, strawberries cut, salt shakers filled, dishes," she says, explaining the constant motion of the job. All these tasks are essential to the perfect dining experience, but as Swackhamer observes: "I really challenge everyone to leave their meal and tell me what their busboy looked like."

My Manana Comes, about to open at Stages Repertory Theatre, "is a fascinating look at people we don't pay attention to," says Swackhamer (Houston Theater Award Best Director 2015).

The setting is the back room of a fancy Upper East Side restaurant in Manhattan, but according to Swackhamer, it might as well be Houston. The main characters are three Hispanics – two of them undocumented – and one African-American, a combination that could naturally occur just as well in any of Houston’s restaurants.

Four busboys balance their work lives around each other, exchanging plans and dreams in general accord except that new management has arrived, making their low-wage jobs become even tougher by taking away their shift pay.

Playwright Elizabeth Irwin's  one-act, 90-minute play shows what happens next, when people already living on the edge are pushed into even worse circumstances.

Besides the wage reversal that makes them dependent upon tips alone, it's summertime and that's when the affluent diners head for their weekend homes in the Hamptons, further decreasing the hours available to work at the Manhattan restaurant.

Relationships in the back room deteriorate. “They start to fight each other, which is not productive, but they don’t have any power to fight the system,” Swackhamer says. “It gets morally difficult very quickly.”

Performances are scheduled for February 15 - March 5 at 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Stages Repertory Theatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For information call 713-527-0123 or visit stagestheatre.com. $21-$55.

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