Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Zander's review of Million Dollar Quartet
Lucia (Elizabeth Ramos) was born in Mexico, raised in America, and has, until now, most recently lived in Chicago. She is a new writer for a TV detective series. As she settles into her office, rattled and nervous, she meets Abel (Eddie Martinez), who is of Mexican ancestry but who was born in the United States. Jittery, anxious, and with the full realization that she will be scripting for white men (her boss and others), Lucia needs an ear. Unassuming and a fine listener, Abel, a custodian for the building, is grounded and calm. He hears that she was not exactly raised in a slum neighborhood, while he was a Marine, did some jail time, and has a 6-year-old daughter he absolutely adores. Lucia, grappling with a difficult and sometimes cut-throat industry, wants her dueand she is a bold enough manipulator. It is not lost on her that she has been brought to the Los Angeles-based writing team because of her racial identity. She says, "This is television and I'm a novelist." Abel, a sane soul, hopes for fiscal and familial survival. He is gentle but, a skeptic, has first-hand knowledge of a world lacking in humanity.
Fade includes, especially during its earlier portions, scene fragments or snippets. The writing catches immediately and is strong, as the audience is eavesdropping on the proceedings. As it evolves, the episodes grow longer and assuredly less frenetic. It is not at all surprising that Lucia and Abel are drawn to one another; each is a searcher. The proximity is close. Eventually, he reveals quite a bit about his personal life. Through Saracho's plotting, Lucia finally takes on a very different persona. While logical and easily imagined, her callous decision to utilize (for her writing job) Abel's high drama situations from his own life is nothing short of alienating. He sees, discerns and comprehends what goes on.
The show features snappy, in-your-face performance by Elizabeth Ramos as Lucia. She is at one with her character and the portrayal is genuine. Ramos delivers her lines with drive, whether they be in English (for the most part) or Spanish. Actor Eddie Martinez originated the role of Abel at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts last year, played the part again recently at Primary Stages Off-Broadway, and shows special range and command here. He does not rush and this allows for his presence to become undeniably important.
Jerry Ruiz has directed Fade at all three places and he wisely pushes the pace. Hispanic music, quite blaring, sometimes marks scene shifts. Mariana Sanchez's setting for the office in the film studio is suitably spare.
Beyond it all lurk questions which cannot be ignored for all creative writers: Is there a boundary and/or should one exercise caution when referencing the very personal in crafting narrative for a novel or play or teleplay? Lucia thinks not. She is a minority woman who, in order to succeed in a male-dominated profession, will proceed in straight-ahead mode. The implication here is that the weak, meek, even moral individuals coping with fast and furious L.A. could fall onto the figurative shoulders of television's freeway. The climb back onto the road (and screen) might be too steep to accomplish. Playwright Saracho furnishes a worthwhile script which gains momentum as it hurtles toward its conclusion.
Fade continues at TheaterWorks in Hartford, Connecticut, through June 30th, 2017. For tickets, call (860) 527-7838 or visit www.theaterworkshartford.org.