In both Sharr White's lyrical and lovely drama The Other Place and Elizabeth Irwin's magnificent My Mañana Comes, we are invited inside the lives of people who—in theater, as in real life—are often all but invisible.
In a near balletic production at Marin Theater Company, My Mañana Comes follows four hard-working busboys at an upscale restaurant in New York City. Set entirely on the prep side of the bustling kitchen (we never see a single waitperson), Irwin's brilliant script pulls us in immediately, and director Kirsten Brandt keeps things hopping as the 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 they weren't also giving deep, fleshed-out and fully engaging performances.
Peter (Shaun Patrick Tubbs) and Jorge (Eric Avilés) have worked in the restaurant the longest, and each tries to school the two newer bussers, Whalid (Caleb Carera) and Pepe (Carlos Jose Gonzales Morales), in his own way. A bit of competition is natural, but when management cuts their pay, the way these four invisible men collide is eye-opening and entirely devastating.
Rating (out of 5):
In Sharr White's Other Place, at Main Stage West (following a run with much of the same cast at 6th Street Playhouse), Jacquelyn Wells gives a heartbreaking, emotionally scorching performance as Juliana, 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 play's various flashbacks and narrative asides, the play unfolds as a bit of mystery, as Juliana 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 Juliana and her baffled husband Ian (nice work by Clark Miller), all played out with a mounting intensity that ultimately—aided by skillful performances from Angella Martin and John Browning in multiple roles—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 Nov. 15 at Main Stage West. 104 N. Main St., Sebastopol. Thursday–Saturday, 8pm; 5pm matinees, Sunday. $15–$27. 707.823.0177. 'My Mañana Comes' runs Tuesday–Sunday through Nov. 22 at Marin Theatre Company. 397 Miller Ave., Mill Valley. Times vary. $20–$58. 415.388.5208.