Assumptions and prejudice are two words that often go hand in hand, and in TheaterWorks’ production of “Fade,” under the direction of Jerry Ruiz; even assumptions about people you presume are sympathetic to you can lead to prejudice.
Written by Tanya Saracho, “Fade” is semi-autobiographical, and tells the story of Lucia (Elizabeth Ramos), a writer who has moved to Los Angeles to write for a television network. She quickly meets Abel (Eddie Martinez), the night janitor, who comes to her office every evening to empty the garbage and vacuum. Lucia immediately assumes that because Abel looks to be of Mexican decent she has found a kindred spirit and starts to speak to him in Spanish, which he isn’t receptive to initially because he believes that since you live in America, you should speak English at work.
What follows is the slow forming of a strenuous relationship that begins to show some appreciation for each other.
Lucia is an intriguing and frustrating character. She is self-righteous, judgmental, and a hypocrite. She preaches to Abel about the social injustices thrust upon her at work due to her ethnicity — which are valid — but in doing so, exposes not only her prejudices towards her white co-workers, but to Abel as well.
The performances by Ramos and Martinez create a great balance in their contrast. Ramos gives Lucia the anxiety of a woman who is constantly paranoid about never being recognized and that her boss is going to use her for nothing but menial tasks like translating a message for him to his maid. She moves across the stage with a frenetic energy.
Martinez, on the other hand, keeps his performance reserved, with minimal movement throughout the first few scenes. His performance opens up as the character opens up, allowing him to have a bit more mobility with his body and the environment in and around Lucia’s office when he sees his own prejudices to her — who he sees as a woman who has always been privileged and never had to work an honest day in her life.
The dichotomy between the two is stirring, and the two actors bring a subdued sexual tension that they repress for most of the show as they fight, make up, and argue some more.
There are some structuring issues with the show. It runs for 90 minutes with no intermission, but with all the scene changes and how long those scene changes run, the show is probably 5 to 10 minutes shorter than that. This probably comes from Saracho’s life as a writer for television, where scenes are traditionally shorter than on stage.
Due to the nature of the play and the plot’s timeline, many scene changes are probably necessary, but the show dragged sometimes, especially when there were a number of short scenes at the beginning.
The length of the scene changes is due to the apparent need to have Lucia in a different outfit every scene, since, in each scene, it is a new day. I don’t think it is necessary, I think people are able to tell that it is a new day without Ramos having to change clothes between scenes.
The set feels pretty simple; it’s an office with a 6-foot window that looks to the hallway. The details of the set, like the food vending machine and a drinking fountain, are nice touches and the brilliant florescent lighting of Lucia’s office would make anyone want to rethink their life decisions.
Ruiz and TheaterWorks have created an enjoyable evening of theater, with warmth and wit with “Fade.”
Not to spoil anything, but its ending may aggravate some audience members. Either way, “Fade” offers the mirror of our hypocrisies, even the ones that stem from sincere concerns for social injustice.