A Mexican-born novelist named Lucia (Melisa Pereyra) decides to “slum” it by accepting a staff writing job on a network cop show featuring a Latina lead, only all the writers are middle-aged white men. Lucia knows nothing of script-writing and disparages not only her colleagues but the medium, believing she’s faking her way long enough to pay off student loans and credit card debt so she can finally write her second novel. Lucia starts up a conversation (in Spanish) with the only other brown face in the building, the janitor Abel (Franco Gonzalez), feeling they must be sympatico: After all, both are Hispanics (or is it Latinos?) givin’ it to The Man. Abel bristles initially at the presumed connection (his family is Mexican, but he was born in L.A., and speaks uninflected English at work), but Lucia wears him down, probing into his life. But is she being social or doing research?
Fade, by Tanya Saracho, is a two-hander that wears its theme like a brightly-colored serape — Lucia is all squishy politically-correct liberalism, but just as judgmental, and just as quick to stereotype, as the well-heeled male assholes in the writers’ room. She’s not a pleasant woman, and despite her insecurities, difficult to sympathize with. She’s coy, falsely self-deprecating (Abel calls her a fresa — a bougie rich girl — which she balks at, but we know it’s true), insufferable, tone-deaf and flirtatious. (At one point, she spontaneously, unexpectedly and unwelcomely kisses Abel; if a male writer had done that to the help, we would perceive this story in a much darker light.)
There are many details that don’t ring true, not the least of which is a framed cover of Lucia’s novel, instead of the novel itself, which she seems obsessed with (I don’t know a single writer who fetishizes a book cover instead of the book itself) and the very predictable telegraphing of how Lucia’s fashions and diction change as she becomes part of the establishment. There’s also a key but predictable plot turn (the play runs nearly two hours, without intermission, which is way too long) where Lucia’s immorality offends everyone, yet she can’t bring herself to apologize, which only cements our distaste for her. Pereyra does little to humanize her; her acting style approximates the excesses of a telenovela. Gonzalez, however, carries himself with aplomb and dignity; he’s a very watchable actor. It’s too bad he’s stuck in an unsubtle social commentary without any surprises.
— Arnold Wayne Jones
At the Wyly Theatre.
Through Jan. 7.