The Moxie Theatre production of Fade written by Tanya Saracho and directed by Maria Patrice Amon, featuring Javier Guerrero as Abel and Sofia Sassone as Lucia, is a powerful, moving, and timely work, exploring the intersections of gender, class, ethnicity, and value in the Trumpian America. Lucia, a new hire at the TV/Film studio, struggles to find her place as a script writer. Abel, a custodian in Lucia’s building, tries to survive as a single-father after a period of incarceration.
Through the two “Mexican” (one may want to use Latinx to maintain a gender-neutral and inclusive tone) characters, the play interrogates a variety of questions and issues of stereotypes, difference within one racial/ethnic group, identity (politics), tokenism, sexual discrimination, reality of the entertainment industry, and their effects on people, particularly on the underrepresented population in the United States.
The actions take place in Lucia’s office in a film and TV studio in Los Angeles, where Abel and Lucia, the two characters from different backgrounds, classes, and experiences, meet and develop their friendship until the “fade-out” of their relationship at the end.
Scenic designer Kristen Flores created an office space which has three areas: Lucia’ desk and chair, close to the windows (stage left); a mini-refrigerator in the center; and a sofa and shelves (stage right). Sassone’s Lucia moves to different areas of her office depending on the mood of day and time. The different areas also underscore the dynamics of the relationship between the two. For example, when Abel and Lucia are emotionally close, they situate themselves in the area of the sofa. The corridor in front of Lucia’s office is visible through three panels of plexi glasses. The see-through nature of the corridor adds another dimension of the lives of the characters; the audience sees Abel vacuuming and mopping and Lucia skipping.
The rocky initial encounter between the two—with Lucia’s presumption and insensibility to those who are underprivileged and Abel’s pride and dignity as a “Mexican who happened to be born in America,” develops into trust and friendship. As a catalyst for their relationship, Saracho provides a dramaturgical thread, which is a story-line of a new TV drama that Lucia works on. As the play progresses, the audience begins to notice how Abel’s past (which he confides with Lucia) is interwoven, by Lucia, into the narrative and lines of the TV script. This TV drama script also functions as a metaphor for the cycle of deception, manipulation, and back-stabbing in the entertainment industry.
Both Guerrero and Sassone are extremely talented and committed; they have created the believable, convincing, and compelling characters which represent two opposites within the one “category.” Guerrero portrays Abel as a man “with the past,” honesty, pride, and compassion. Sassone underscores the change in her character from a high-spirited and naïve employee to a woman with only one goal; climbing up the ladder in the white-male controlled company.
The costume designer has prepared over 12 clothes for Sassone. Every scene she appears in a different top or bottom, making her change subtle. The colors change from jazzy and lively yellow tone (with flower patterns) to beige and sublime, suggesting the sign of sophistication and the entry into the corporate. Abel changes his shirt three times but they look more or less similar; his dark blue custodian uniform with his name on; suggests the occupation and this “minimum-change” insinuates the status/position that one cannot change for various factors, including incarceration.
Lighting (lighting designer, Mextrly Almeda) plays an important role in this performance. Lucia works in the dark until Abel comes to her office to turn on the light (without noticing she is still there). At each interval (between short scenes) Almeda fades out the lights from the bright white, business/industrial tone to a warm rose color, indicating the passage of time,
The music, Amon’s first entry point to design in the show, plays an important role. Amon closely works with her sound designer Lily Voon who composed a theme song for one of the transitions. Each of the songs is written or created by Latinx (gender non-specific term for Latina and Latino) artists in a style that represents either Abel or Lucia. The first song in the play, Bomba Estéreo’s “Soy Yo,” gives a driving beat and eclectic instrumentation that matches Lucia’s cultural hybridity as well as her vivacity. To this music Sassone’s Lucia twerks, hops, and bounces on the sofa, indicating the character’s cheerful and positive personality, which is eventually transformed into a more rigid and cold one at the end.
The interaction between Abel and Lucia sheds light on differences within the Mexicans and Mexican Americans, human desire to find the “commonality” of racial oppression, gender politics, and the LA film/TV industry’s hunger for “popular” stories of ethnic and racial others.
Saracho has been working as a writer for TV and she used her experience, including her encounter with a janitor who does not speak English, to develop the character of Lucia. What the audience will get from Fade is open; she hopes that “they take away the complexity of what it’s like to be Latnix right now.”
Fade is performed at Moxie Theatre Company through Nov. 11, 2019.