Tanya Saracho’s “FADE” at Theaterworks Hartford through June 30

By Tom Nissley

A somewhat frumpily dressed Lucia (Elizabeth Ramos) stumbles into an office all her own in the middle level of a Los Angeles office building. Through the (inside) glass walls we can see a snack machine and a corridor leading to a janitor’s supply closet. On the desk a large computer monitor suggests creative arts, and as she puts a few belongings onto book shelves they collapse. Welcome to the world of diversity hire! For Lucia has been hired to help write TV scripts — a new field for her — in a company that otherwise is on a floor upstairs with offices that look outside through their glass walls, and male writers who are not adept at Spanish.

Lucia is Mexican, a first-generation immigrant. She speaks in Spanish to Abel (Eddie Martinez), who, although also Mexican by heritage, answers not a word to her monologue until he finally speaks in American English without a trace of other-world dialect. Lucia: “But I thought we should stick together.” Abel: “What ‘we’ would that be?… I am American and I speak English in the workplace.”

And yet, a small ‘we’ develops between the two. She convinces him to find a different light fixture for her office. He listens to her complaints and problems and at one point shares a beer from her little refrigerator — a compromise with strict parameters for the cleaning folk. As Lucia begins to move up in her level of confidence as a writer for TV, Abel begins to trust her enough to share pieces of his background in the Marines and elsewhere — stories that she absorbs and perhaps even treasures.

But treasures how? “FADE” is also a story of how people change and maybe manipulate as they work to climb the ladders to success. Lucia’s schedule becomes more relaxed; her clothes become less frumpy. She is sad but also knowledgeable when another writer is fired. Should we be paying attention? Oh yes. And you will, at least as you look back on the scenes while remembering them when you’ve left the theater.

The after-impact of this production is powerful, and it should lead to new and useful discussions about what diversity means next? A funny bit is Lucia being pulled up to the boss’ office to translate to his maid over the phone that if she wants to keep her job she must have his four newspapers in the proper order along with coffee laid out every morning at 6:00 a.m.  His wife wants to keep this maid because she’s good with the children. But neither he nor she can speak enough Spanish to explain about the four newspapers and the coffee. That may be how it is in modern America. It’s a good marker in this play about Latinos moving within society.

When you study the program you’ll note the preponderance of Latino backgrounds that put this production together (a number of whom worked with it at the NYC production at Primary Stages). Director Jerry Ruiz, Set Designer Mariana Sanchez, Costumer Harry Nadal, Sound by M. L. Dogg, all reflect Latino background or a Primary Stages link. Amith Chandrashaker did the amazing lighting.

All this raises another question about diversity: Does it lead to being separate and equal within society or inclusive and together? “What ‘we’ would that be?” And, when a play, no matter how splendid, was fully produced in New York and transferred to Hartford, is it a Connecticut production?

But don’t miss the opportunity to see “FADE” at Theaterworks Hartford. Call 860-527-7838 and beg for tickets today. Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre