Tanya Saracho’s play, “Fade,” currently being presented at TheaterWorks, is an intriguing and subtly disturbing evening of theatre. With just a two member cast and a unit set, “Fade” embraces a wide range of issues, namely race, family, trust, and, most prominently, the idea of “selling out.” Both Elizabeth Ramos, as Lucia, and Eddie Martinez, as Abel, are superb in their roles and one really gets to know and care about them in this play.
It is precisely because one likes these characters so much, that the road that the playwright ultimately goes down in “Fade” can hurt and get under one’s skin. Director Jerry Ruiz does a good job of staging this show and he manages to hold the audience’s interest throughout. This is significant because “Fade” is made up a series of short scenes, and, initially, there is the fear that the show could get somewhat disjointed. But “Fade” is a work that can pack a punch and it is stayed with me long after the show ended.
The set-up of this play is simplicity itself: the character of Lucia is first seen moving into her new office and starting work as a television writer. The only other person onstage is Abel, a member of the cleaning crew who vacuums and empties the garbage, among other jobs. Lucia, who begins the play completely unsure of her talents as a writer, strikes up a friendship, of sorts, with Abel, initially because of the fact that they are both Latino. (Incidentally, it is stated before the show starts that there will be a great deal of Spanish spoken in the play, which is true and actually adds to the richness and texture of the playwright’s work).
Not to give too much more of the plot away, but the crux of the show is Lucia trying to find a way to fit in with her co-workers (whom she says are all “white men”) and also to write a television show with more prominent parts for Latinos. As “Fade” continues through its 90 minute running time (with no intermission), one can see, as well, that Lucia and Abel’s friendship becomes stronger. Tanya Saracho can write dialogue that feels genuine and real and she has written two solid roles in this show.
Elizabeth Ramos, as Lucia, gives a fine performance and she allows all the numerous dimensions of her character to be clearly apparent, sometimes all at once. Eddie Martinez, as Abel, plays a character who is pretty much completely closed off and private, and this actor is good at slowly letting the audience see him open up and begin to trust Lucia. The relationship between these two people is such that one hangs on their every line and moment onstage and one begins to root for them, which makes the denouement of “Fade” all the more significant and jarring.
It should be stated that “Fade” is not perfect—at times, some of the plot points can seem obvious and almost predictable. But Tanya Saracho is so true to her characters and brings such a freshness to her writing that the show ultimately works, nonetheless. “Fade” previously had a productions in Denver and New York (with both the director, Jerry Ruiz, and the actor, Eddie Martinez, involved), and it’s good to see it at TheaterWorks.
“Fade” is a notable new work and there are some echoes of Donald Marguiles’ “Collected Stories,” figuring into the show, as well (this is meant as a high compliment). On Mariana Sanchez’s antiseptic-looking office set, Elizabeth Ramos and Eddie Martinez, as Lucia and Abel, almost do a kind of dance together, with a hoped-for relationship between them beginning to form. It is because of the talents of these two actors, and to playwright Tanya Saracho’s skills at developing characters you can care about, that makes the ultimate fate of these two people in “Fade” such a heartbreaker.
“Fade” continues performances at TheaterWorks in Hartford, CT through June 30, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.
Photo: (L-R): Elizabeth Ramos and Eddie Martinez
Photo by Lanny Nagler