Fade is a relentless play that wastes no time: moments after the two characters are introduced, their quick assumptions about each other’s racial identity and social status create instant, palpable tension. Shortly after, this tension erupts into a heated argument which creates platforms for the characters to voice their views on the ongoing identity crisis of Latinx people in Trump’s America. Plot points, character development, and social issues are all introduced and explored at a breakneck pace, and I loved it.
Fade follows the story of Lucia, an upper middle-class, Mexican born writer who moves to Los Angeles to start a new job in TV writing. The incumbent writing team on the show is distinctly (and toxically) monochromatic. The predominantly white writing team’s resistance to her ideas creates an internal conflict for Lucia. How should she counterbalance a good career opportunity against her pride for her cultural background? How can Lucia prove herself to the writing staff without selling out her heritage? Enter Abel, a Latino custodian who befriends (and argues with) Lucia. Abel is a direct foil to Lucia - strong and confident in his own identity, he never apologies for who he is. Their relationship ebbs and flows as they learn more about each other and navigate the cultural complexities of a mostly white workplace.
The writing talent on display is impressive. Written by Tanya Saracho, a writer for shows such as How to Get Away with Murder and HBO’s Girls, the biggest strength of Fade is its ability to be concise and meaningful in both its structure and dialogue. Each scene serves to both advance a plot point and explore a theme it introduces. Anecdotes from Lucia’s time in the writer’s room both push forward her career story-arc as well as provide platforms for meaningful discussion about cultural conflicts in the workplace. Fade capitalizes on these opportunities with gusto. Such deliberate writing commands audience attention in every scene and allows for satisfying delivery of stories and character developments. The level of polish on display in the writing deserves a great deal of praise.
The narrative is clearly the star of the show, but the acting is commendable as well. Played by Sari Sanchez (Lucia) and Eddie Martinez (Abel), the performers do a fantastic job of bringing energy to Ms. Saracho’s dialogue. The characters are expressive and full of life, which complement the tone and pace of the narrative. However, I personally felt as if aspects of the actor’s ranges were not dynamic enough to really sell both the major pivotal scenes and the quieter moments in the narrative. At the climax of the play, I could not help but feel as if the outrage expressed by one character closely mimicked the same character’s outrage in a previous scene where the stakes were much, much lower. This example is representative of some smaller moments in the narrative as well, but such instances are amongst a backdrop of incredibly powerful scenes and can easily be forgiven. Despite the climax feeling lackluster, the ultimate conclusion does not disappoint.
Fade’s caliber of writing is well worth the price of admission and makes for an incredibly captivating 90 minutes.
Review by Ryan Moore
Fade continues at Victory Gardens Theater through December 23, 2017. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreInChicago's Review Round-Up.