A delivery boy who inadvertently brings companionship to lonely New Yorkers? That’s the concept behind venezolano Eduardo Leanez’ one-man play, Delivery Boy, which recently won best short at Teatro La Tea’s, One Festival, which took place April 9 – 22nd.
“Delivery boys pass through the city almost unnoticed,” writer Eduardo Leanez says, “but in this case, the character Roberto actually realizes he has a lot more to give than what he’s carrying in those bags,” making him human to his customers, and breaking down his anonymity.
In a semi-autobiographic work which was his first writing effort, actor Leanez, 31, follows the life of a young undocumented immigrant from Venezuela who arrives in New York hoping to chase an acting dream. Broke and hungry, he’s driven instead to don an apron and work delivering groceries for a surly deli owner.
Alternately thrilled and depressed to be in New York (¿no es asi siempre?), young Roberto begins forging relationships with his customers—despite his boss’s urgings to work faster (and more impersonally). We meet an elderly woman whose refrigerator Roberto fixes, a dancer whom he helps with her cats, and a sickly man who Roberto visits in the hospital—and Leanez hints, may become a love interest for the young immigrant.
These customers-turned-friends, in turn, support Roberto in his dream to act—yet, over and over, he runs up against the brick wall of his undocumented status and his poverty, both of which make it seemingly impossible for him to attend acting school.
Yet his cheerful, heart-of-gold nature keeps us hoping—and believing—he’ll make it eventually.
“With all the hate against immigrants right now, this was a chance to show that many contribute something to the United States,” even if that contribution is simply the personalismo that’s often forgotten in the busy city, says Leanez, who himself worked as a deli delivery boy after coming to New York seven years ago. “I also wanted to show what people can make it through when they have a dream that’s higher and more potent than their daily life.”
The result is a mostly uplifting look at those moments when friendship transcends culture and class and becomes simply human.
However, at times, Roberto seems a bit too innocent, and in places, the play lacks drama—the beginning is a bit akin to watching your fresh-off-the-boat cousin adjust to life in the big city. Sure, everything is new to Roberto (and your primo), but to us jaded New Yorkers, their experiences may seem slightly cliché (a frustrating job search, learning English, sitting in Central Park, dancing to Sinatra’s “New York, New York”.)
However, the piece still has power, in great part because honestly, when do we ever see the life of a delivery boy…or a pizza boy…or a busboy, or any other working-class recent immigrant, depicted in the theater? Even rarer is seeing that life depicted with dignity by a person who’s lived it– which makes the play a gem in itself.
Because he won the Teatro la Tea competition, Leanez will have a chance to update and perform the show for a week-long run in June or July (dates TBA.) He may also eventually turn it into a full-length play—which would be a good idea, given all the meatier themes he only hints at in the current version of Delivery Boy (Roberto’s sexuality, the experience of being robbed by the immigrant family that’s taken him in, and the humiliation of being denigrated by less friendly customers.) With all of Roberto’s sweetness, these darker moments would provide a good balance, and make his spirit seem all the stronger.
For more information about the play (and upcoming show dates), check Teatro la Tea’s website at http://www.teatrolatea.com.