A fascinating season for Miami’s Gablestage comes to a close with their current production of Fade by Tanya Saracho, an intriguing exploration of the relationship between two Latinx employees at a Los Angeles television studio. The first of these we meet is Lucia, an earnest newly-hired writer who was born and raised by a relatively well-off family in Mexico and is new to the TV industry after making a name for herself with a first novel. Through her, we meet Abel (pronounced Ah-bell not “able”), a guarded but compassionate American-born janitor of Mexican descent hailing from hard-knock neighborhood El Sereno.
Though the two initially seem able to develop a camaraderie and even a friendship thanks to the shared frame of reference their shared ethnicity allows, as the play goes on—and as Lucia slowly outgrows her initial nerves and disdain for her job and begins instead to ascend the corporate ladder with gusto—these class differences grow from a palpable but surmountable obstacle to the source of an irrevocable reckoning.
Actors Alexandra Acosta and Alex Alvarez, who are probably the production’s greatest asset, do much to make this unlikely connection both credible and compelling. Acosta’s portrayal of the high-strung Lucia effectively balances the two opposing sides of the character, with both her surface congeniality and self-doubt and her deeper shrewdness and hunger for recognition coming across as completely believable. Meanwhile, Alvarez is a pitch-perfect straight man to Acosta’s more neurotic woman, and goes on to reveal his aptitude for conveying greater emotional depths when the plot finally delves into his character’s backstory.
Since the technical elements of the play also seem to be in ship-shape, with costume designer Camilla Haith worth a special mention for Lucia’s array of appealing outfits, there is only really the script itself to blame for the production’s somewhat underwhelming nature. Not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable ride nonetheless—especially at only an hour and forty five minutes, there’s enough humor and suspense to smooth over the play’s deeper structural flaws. Director Teo Castellanos also well manages the ever-shifting dynamics between the characters while building in enough playful blocking to help keep the audience engaged.
Reportedly, Fade is based on playwright Tanya Saracho’s real life experiences as, at one point, the only Latina writer on a show about four Latina maids. This gives the play an aura of authenticity that fuels many a satirical joke at the nonsensical world of television’s expense, moments that serve as some of the play’s brighter spots. One also never doubts the plausibility of the humiliating and racially charged incidents Lucia recounts of being ignored while her less qualified white colleagues are asked to weigh in, being singled out to translate for her boss’s maid because of her ethnicity, or being plainly called a “diversity hire” by a mean-spirited co-worker.
Tanya Saracho Headshot. [Photo Credit: Jackson Davis]