“Fade” by Tanya Saracho ("Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine") now showing at Moxie Theatre in Rolando through Nov. 11th in association with TuYo Theatre is another two hander on the San Diego theatre scene. Under the deft direction of Maria Patrice Amon, it deals with social and economic differences in the Latinx community on many levels in a 90 minute + fast paced, witty and credible but predictable work.
In an interview, the playwright shares that she wrote “Fade” as therapy during her first year in LA as a new hire to write a show for TV. As a Chicago transplant, she and her female alter ego Lucia (Sofia Sassone) complain about LA-ville from the palm trees to the weather, to the freeways (no one gets out of their cars) to not knowing anyone to being afraid of being fired.
|Sofia Sassone and Javier Guerrero|
On her nightly visits to her office space, she befriends and then enlists the help of the custodian, Abel (Javier Guerrero). He works in her office building where his nightly maintenance jobs coincide with her after hours schedule.
He’s usually pushing a vacuum cleaner, cleaning windows, emptying trash baskets or fixing something or other in her office-space (appropriately decorated by Kristin Flores and purposefully lit by Mextly Aimeda). She’s often railing about her co –workers, women in the workplace and her lack of ideas.
They get off to a shaky start when she assumes he is Hispanic so she speaks to him in Spanish. We later learn that he was born and raised in LA, is in fact of Mexican-American heritage but prefers to speak English. (“You speak English? So why have I been speaking to you in Spanish?” A: Um, I don’t know.”… I don’t assume stuff like that.”)
That give and take lasts for a while until they agree that she made a mistake in her assumptions that because someone looks like they may be Hispanic or speaks in broken English that they would prefer to speak in Spanish. He chooses not to because maybe this is America? They reboot and we’re off to the races.
Culture and class (her family has a maid- “everyone in Mexico City has one”- his family does not) and ambition are at the heart of Saracho’s witty comedy leaning to the cynical end on the comedy spectrum.
She is afraid of running out of ideas. Some might call it writers block, but in fact she is out of her league compared to the team of writers she is competing with in the upstairs suites of her building.
In her mind her hire was more of a diversity (she is a Mexican-born originally from Mexico City) hire than a talented young, up and coming star. Her one and only published book was titled “The Definitive Guide to Nothing”. She’s angry; he’s a good listener.
As all this off camera give and take is played out in Lucia’s small office space, she and Abel share stories of their past (he more than she). Hers is more ranting and protesting against how she is treated by her male superiors.
She finds his story not only compelling (and that tattoo on your arm?) but oh, so right as an intro into her contribution to the new TV series her company is launching.
After bits and pieces of his story evolve, she asks if she might use some of what he shared of his story, as her intro to the series. (“I want it to be nuanced and stuff.”) He said sure as long as some of the more personal and perhaps incriminating facts he shared were left out. She agreed. (“Don’t worry, I wont tell anyone.”)
The two opposing personalities, she is from an upper class family even though she denies it. She’s also well educated and we see, condescending.
He’s working class and knows his station in life but is proud of his being both a Marine and Fireman, not to mention the proud dad of a little girl. The one strike that finds him as a custodian because they don’t ask too many questions is the fact that he spent time in jail. Long story.
As she gains confidence with all his new revelations and acceptance with her bosses for moving forward on the project, the tables begin to change in her relationships with the other writers and so, in turn, does her demeanor and self-assurance with Abel. Oft times she’s AOL when he comes by her small office suite.
When he notices and compliments her on her rising star spot in the company, he also wants to know if she’s ready to go in with everything she has to seal the deal. “Are you ready to do whatever it takes?”
Culture clash, show business and personal commitments don’t always make perfect bedfellows and “Fade is no exception. It’s like being on a sea-saw; one minute you’re up and the next you’re struggling to gain balance and a collision course is most inevitable.
In scene after scene (and there are many that almost fade into one another) both actors come on to the stage with a different set of circumstances advancing the outcome, which, this reviewer found fairly predictable as the plot thickened.
There is a quasi romance that was doomed from the start, a naiveté present that was able to get the very persuasive Sassone’s Lucia into the mind set of Guerrero’s Abel’s almost too trusting way and there is a plausible story to build upon. The rhythms of their give and take are perfect.
Armon’s (“Madres”) spot on direction and Saracho’s fast repartee is perfect fodder for these two beautiful young and seasoned actors honing in on their skills as two strangers, lovers, compatriots and finally adversaries. They are believable, funny, captivating, interesting and charming. The match is ideal.
She is dressed in Carmon Amon’s funky mismatched flowing styles; linens and flowery and shimmering fabrics that only a body as slim as Ms. Sassone’s can get away with. I loved it. Guerrero’s uniform…well, what can we say?
The one negative for moi was the transition music supplied by, I’m assuming, sound designer Lily Voon. It might be hip. It might be the IN sound, but frankly my dear, it was too loud and invasive to my ears.
Other than that, the play, the actors and direction is right up Moxie’s alley and now with their debut collaboration with TuYo, they’ve opened up a new page in diversifying the theatre experience.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Nov. 11th
Organization: Moxie Theatre
Production Type: Romantic Comedy
Where: 6663 El Cajon Blvd.
Ticket Prices: $18.00- $43.00
Photo: Quasi Studios