Sunday, June 11, 2017

Review of "Fade"

Lucia (Elizabeth Ramos) is a struggling Latina novelist that has just landed a gig writing for a television series.  Abel (Eddie Martinez) is the custodian in the building where she works.  Both are of Mexican descent.  After a few misfires, they begin to forge a bond rooted in their ethnic heritage.  In playwright’s Tanya Saracho’s absorbing, funny and bittersweet work, Fade, she uses the backdrop of the entertainment business to raise and dissect such hot button topics as class, gender and the immigrant experience within the Latino world.
Elizabeth Ramos and Eddie Martinez in "Fade" at Theaterworks.
As the show opens, Lucia, young, nervous, and full of self-doubts, is trying to find her way as a writer on a TV show.  Alone, having recently moved from Chicago, she feels underappreciated and somewhat of a token hire within the production team.  She meets Abel her first week as he enters her office to clean, making some poor and wrong assumptions about the man.  The two slowly begin an arm’s length rapport that blossoms into a relationship of trust, confidences, and shared backstories.  The focus of their meetings usually revolves around Lucia’s woes with her position, her distain for the industry, and the indignities she endures because of her womanhood and ethnic background.  Eventually, the workplace environment begins to turn around in no small part to her conversations and pep talks with Abel.  However, in the end, deceipt and betrayal rear their ugly head.
Ms. Saracho has structured the play with many short scenes that appreciably facilitate the passage of time and markedly furthers the development of the two characters and their deepening affinity.  Her incorporation of Spanish phrases and idioms into the production helps in the creation of two fully realized, multi-faceted personalities that speak with authentic voices.  While the dialogue can appear occasionally preachy, and the plot somewhat predictable, her interweaving of social, class, and gender issues into the framework of the play are affecting and thought-provoking.  The author, who has extensive writing credits within the television industry, has a knowing and observant eye on the inner workings of the business.  The language is consistently coarse, but realistic in its usage.
Elizabeth Ramos and Eddie Martinez in "Fade" at Theaterworks.
Actors Elizabeth Ramos and Eddie Martinez have both performed previously in the play and this shows in their convincing chemistry and ease in working together.  Ms. Ramos effectively conveys the angst and uncertainty millennials have when facing their first real job.  The outrage, humiliation and embarrassment she portrays is believable and compelling.  Her transformation from a deer-in-the-headlights, fresh-faced employee to something much different is persuasive.  Mr. Martinez is more subtle and less expressive in his characterization of Abel, who’s life unfolds before us in fits and starts.  The actor radiates decency and integrity even though he has suffered shame and injustice.

Director Jerry Ruiz, who has helmed productions of the show since its world premiere at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, has a firm grasp on the characters and the pacing of the show.  The frequent scene changes are quick without taking away from the flow and energy of the story.  He gradually builds the tension within the play and methodically draws the audience into its world.

Faded, another terrific summertime production at Theaterworks, through June 30th.

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