Jawnts: Plays delve into how much we know those around us

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"Waiting for the Boss" with Paul McElwee (left) and Ed Miller, one of three plays at Junk Performance Space.

Josh McIlvain worked security for 41/2 years at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's a lot of hours standing around or killing time with other guards. Like most working people, he ended up spending more time with them than with his friends or family.

"You have these deeply personal encounters between people who don't really know each other, or even like each other," says McIlvain, who wrote, and co-directed with Chris Czyz, the three one-acts that will be performed this week at Junk Performance Space.

The sometimes-uncomfortable intimacy that develops between co-workers is the focus of his overcaffeinated piece Waiting for the Boss. Two day laborers - paid $10 an hour - wait for their increasingly late employer, who probably won't compensate them for the time spent idling outside the store. The two men aren't anything alike, their conversation isn't remarkably witty or poignant, but there is a tension that gnaws at it. What if the boss doesn't come? And will this other guy ever shut up?

A sense of economic insecurity hangs over all three plays, especially For the Dogs, a painfully awkward monologue about love in the face of overwork and a crushing mortgage. Thanks for the Plant, Thanks for the Cone is more interested in dynamics among longtime neighbors and the little grievances they tenderly nurture.

McIlvain's plays are snapshots of the lives that lie behind the lighted windows of the houses we walk by at night. They are about the coping mechanisms people develop to handle everyday pressures: a cobbled-together personal philosophy to give structure to the randomness; a bottle of cheap wine with a loved one to ward off worry. These characters aren't Sam Shepard's drunken monsters, and they aren't waiting for Godot. They're waiting for the guy who is going to underpay them for their labor, because that's how they are going to pay the rent.

End-to-end, the plays run 90 minutes, at the Junk Performance Space in Graduate Hospital, 2040 Christian St. It's a beautiful old sanctuary building, with a soaring ceiling adorned with saint-encrusted stained-glass. Performances are at 8 p.m. April 3-5. Tickets are $12.


Have an event for Jawnts? @jblumgart jake.blumgart5@gmail.com