‘Fade’ is a masterpiece at Trinity Rep

By Kimberly Rau

On Lucia’s first day of work as a television crime drama writer, the shelf in her office breaks. She lets out
an invective in Spanish and, seeing a custodian walking by, begins rattling off her complaint without
missing a beat. Abel, the custodian, says nothing, fixes the shelf, and leaves. It’s not until sometime
later, around the same time a fellow writer tells Lucia she was only hired to fill a diversity quota (or
maybe it’s when her boss sees her as the go-between translator for him and the maid), that she realizes
Abel speaks English.

She demands to know why she assumed he didn’t speak English. Abel shrugs. That’s on her, he says. He
tries to keep his head down, speak English at work, not stand out. Lucia is outraged. In Trump’s America,
she protests, it’s their duty to speak their “mother tongue.” Though she sees their sameness, Abel is
much more resistant. Lucia, born in Mexico, is privileged, a little spoiled, and has no problem dropping
shocking language at work. Abel, American-born but much less economically advantaged, is just trying
to avoid more trouble. When he finally gives in to their friendship, he winds up bitterly disappointed.

It would be easy to boil down the show into white vs. Mexican, rich vs. poor, but the real trajectory is
human nature and how, even with good intentions, the privileged can be blind to the plight of those
with less. Lucia has no trouble recognizing the way her boss minimizes, mistreats and hurts her, but
cannot see when she is doing the same to Abel. In the same moment she is complaining that her co-
workers are only using her as a token and ignoring everything else she has to offer, she is rejecting Abel
in favor of taking moments of his life in order to script them and get ahead. When Lucia throws the
aforementioned writer under the bus, Abel encourages her, telling her she has to do what she must to
survive, but is deeply wounded when she does the same to him. And so it goes, in a cycle, Lucia moving
up and Abel moving down the same hallways with the same vacuum.

The show clocks just over an hour and a half with no intermission, which would only disrupt the
lightning-fast pace that our two actors keep up anyway. Elia Saldana and Daniel Duque-Estrada
compliment each other in every way, whether Duque-Estrada is shyly responding to Saldana’s
outrageous flirting or the two are clashing in verbal crescendo. The set, designed by Efren Delgadillo Jr.,
is little more than a sparse office, perfectly outfitted with no small detail overlooked. Ginerva Lombardo
and Pablo Santiago’s lighting is perfectly timed to denote the otherwise imperceptible changes in time
and mood. It’s a full sensory experience.

In summary, director Tanya Saracho has taken author Tatayna-Marie Carlo’s compelling script and given
us a masterpiece in thoughtful, relevant commentary. Is there a happy ending? That depends on who
you’re talking about.

Fade runs through January 5 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence. Tickets
are available at the box office, online at www.trinityrep.com, or by calling 401-351-4242.