– Tom Holehan

“Fade,” a Two-Hander at TheaterWorks

A fairly predictable story about race, ambition and Hollywood is on the menu in the well-acted “Fade”, Tanya Saracho’s contemporary drama currently on the boards at TheaterWorks in Hartford. This two-hander performed in about 90 minutes with no intermission has its moments, but follows a familiar pattern as it progresses to its expected conclusion.

Mexican-American writer Lucia (Elizabeth Ramos) is a “token hire” employed to write for a Latino character in a male-dominated TV studio. In her lonely office (no one ever seems to be around) she befriends custodian Abel (Eddie Martinez, excellent) and after a series of misunderstandings (mostly involving their race), a friendship grows. Lucia is having trouble speaking up in the writers’ room while single dad Abel is fresh out of prison trying to make a life for his daughter. With Lucia he shares some personal stories about his experiences and she suddenly becomes “inspired” to write about something.

Ms. Saracho is like many modern playwrights lately whose primary references seem to be more from television and movies than the theatre. Thus “Fade” is comprised of an endless series of short scenes for the ADD audience members who don’t want to get bogged down in too much plot. And pity Ramos for the non-stop costume changes she endures that mostly serve to slow down the action, stalling any suspense in the process. Early in the play, there’s an interesting discussion between the two characters about race and their roles in society, but that soon gives way to a more generic, clawing-up-the-ladder-of-success story instead of anything more profound. It’s a missed opportunity, to say the least.

The actors work well together and Mr. Martinez is especially good playing a man trying to overcome his fractured past in order to give his beloved daughter all she deserves. Martinez is a straight-faced foil for Miss Ramos and his timing is pitch-perfect. Ramos initially seems to be working too hard at the part, but eventually relaxes, bringing pathos to the role of an outsider trying desperately to break into a competitive business.

Marina Sanchez’s sleek office design is nicely detailed with candy machine and water cooler in view through Lucia’s louvered windows. Harry Nadal’s busy collection of costumes for Lucia is also to be admired. Director Jerry Ruiz moves those breathless scenes along as though he was anxious to catch a train. As a side note, this is also the third play I’ve seen recently (“Heartbreak House” at Hartford Stage and “The Most Beautiful Room in New York” at Long Wharf” are the other two) that have included references to our current President. Hopefully this depressing trend will end soon.

“Fade” continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford through June 30th. For further information, call the box office at: 860.527.7838 or visit: www.theaterworkshartford.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com.