It’s not just something that happens in fantasy books and science fiction movies. In the real world, there are invisible people, folks who, because of their social status or lifestyle, or just because they keep their secret pains and problems to themselves, remain essentially unseen, unnoticed, unappreciated, unprotected—invisible.
In two highly recommended North Bay plays, we are invited inside the lives of people who—in theater, as in real life—are rarely ever given a voice.
In a near-balletic new production at Marin Theater Company, in Mill Valley, ‘My Mañana Comes’ follows four hard-working “busboys” at an upscale restaurant in New York City. The play is set entirely on the prep side of the bustling kitchen. We never see a single wait-person, and only the occasional hand and arm sliding dishes into view from the chef’s side. It’s a brilliantly detailed, realistic and lived-in set, by Sean Fanning, is like a character unto itself.
Irwin’s brilliant script pulls us in immediately, and director Kirsten Brandt keeps things hopping as a quartet of actors bus dishes, prep plates of food, slice fruit and vegetables—using real knives—and rush in and out of swinging doors, with a grace and energy that would be impressive even if the actors weren’t also giving deep, fleshed out, fully engaging performances.
Peter—played by Shaun Patrick Tubbs—and Jorge—Eric Avilés—have worked in the restaurant the longest, and each one tries in their own way to school the two newer bussers: Whalid—Caleb Carera— and Pepe—Carlos Jose Gonzales Morales. A bit of competition is natural, but when the restaurant’s management cuts the busser’s pay, everything changes. It’s here that the play kicks into high gear, showing us the way that privilege bring power, even amongst those who are living paycheck to paycheck, and in a hidden world where undocumented workers make up a huge part of the work force, it’s possible to lose everything—job, money, and the American dream—in an instant.
In Sharr White’s The Other Place, now playing at Main Stage West, following an earlier run with much of the same cast at 6th Street Playhouse, Jacquelyn Wells steps into the lead, and gives a heartbreaking, emotionally scorching performance as Julianna, a brilliant scientist and expert on a rare form of dementia, who refuses to accept she’s showing signs of the same devastating illness. Deftly directed by David Lear—who keeps clear the playwright’s various flashbacks and narrative asides—the play unfolds as a bit of mystery, as Julianna recounts an event involving a girl in a yellow string bikini who appears in the audience during a lecture on brain function.
There are other mysteries to be revealed in the lives of Julianna and her baffled husband Ian as well, all adding up to a show that is part family drama and part mediation on the meaning of memory. There is nice work by actor Clark Miller as Ian, with skillful performances from Angella Martin and John Browning in multiple roles. Sam Coughlin takes over for Browning in the show’s final week, and the show deserves an audience as it wraps up its run. Ultimately, Though heartbreaking and challenging, The Other Place finds a surprisingly sweet and lovely resolution, a reminder that the ones we have loved and lost are more than mere memories—they are what we have when nothing else is left.
‘The Other Place’ runs Thursday–Sunday through November 15 at Main Stage West. www.mainstagewest.com
‘My Mañana Comes’ runs Tuesday–Sunday through November 22 at Marin Theatre Company. www.marintheatre.org