You’ve seen people like them underground in the subway. On the platform or in front of a wall. Either begging for money or begging for attention. Performing. Singing and playing their guitar or keeping the beat with a makeshift drum as people pass them by. Only if they are good enough, their performance worthy of our attention do we stop and drop a coin into their open guitar case.
But do we know their history? Do we know how they got there? What do they want? Who are they really? Do we care?
In an attempt to enlighten us on these matters, Mando Alvarado has written “Post No Bills” a play with music which is scheduled to run through December 13th at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. It is like plodding through a muddy gulf of self pity. Where meaningful and beautiful music cannot be written unless you have suffered, are in pain having hit rock bottom.
These characters certainly are suffering. There is Sal (John-Martin Green), a blind man with a wife dying of cancer. He shares his territory in front of the “Post No Bills” wall begging while the ever scowling Esteban (Teddy Canez) plays his guitar and sings dismal songs. He lives alone in Brooklyn. His wife has died. No more women for him.
They are accompanied by two guitar players off on the sidelines of the stage itself. The music by Sandra Rubio with musician Andrew Wetzel is bad at best. It added not much to the play itself which has its own set of predictable problems. Back to the characters.
A seventeen year old Mexican girl from Laredo, Texas named Reyna as in Queen (an interesting Audrey Esparza who brings fire and warmth to her not very likable character) has come to New York seeking fame and fortune as a singer. Somehow she has found Esteban (she knows his music as he was once a recording star) and wants to team up with him for better tips – even auditioning for him with her talents of tap dancing and yodeling. With much reluctance Esteban takes her under his sullen wing. Every once in a while they sing another dreadful Tex-Mex mess of a song.
To complicate her life even further we meet Eddie (Wade Allain-Marcus) a guitar plucking lothario. But he’s too old for her. He’s 28. Esteban whom she likes is much older and doesn’t want to get involved with her although he offers her his chaotic apartment to crash in.
Life goes on. And on. We see incidents involving all four. Lots of fuck this and fuck that dialogue. A bloody nose. Guitar lessons. Incidents that don’t lead up to too much including the end of the first act that just sort of peters out catching the audience off guard as it slowly fizzles to its conclusion. There is a second act to wallow through which has been directed by Michael Ray Escamilla without much inspiration.
Who will she wind up with? Will she become a good singer? Will she get a gig? Will Sal’s wife survive? To find out you’ll have to be brave enough to sit through a performance of “Post No Bills”. Usually Rattlestick comes up with some very fine and exciting plays. This is not one of them. Tickets $45. www.rattlestick.org