Tanya Saracho's fascinating hot-button play about ethnicity, class and prejudice.
Lucia, a young novelist-turned-TV writer, moves into an office for her new job. When the bookshelf collapses under the weight of what she’s put on it, the building’s janitor Abel puts it back up.
In casual conversation, Lucia (Sofia Sassone) – a Mexican-born transplant to the U.S. – complains to Abel about a waitress who gave her not only English but attitude when Lucia tried to make her feel more comfortable by ordering in Spanish.
“It was obvious she spoke Spanish,” she says.
“What was obvious about it?” counters Abel (Javier Guerrero), a self-described Mexican, born and still living in the El Sereno area of East Los Angeles.
This is the tipoff that playwright Tanya Saracho will take us into contentious hot-button territory like ethnicity, class and prejudice in her fascinating one-act, two-person play “Fade.”
We see Lucia (“not pronounced Loo-sha”) and Abel (“not pronounced able”) only after hours in the studio, while he cleans up and she tries to adjust to her new, presumably collaborative job after living the lonely life of a novelist.
Actually, though, she’s not even sure she belongs here. “I thought I’d be writing,” she wails. “But there’s zero writing involved. There’s just been sitting and talking.”
It gets worse when her boss calls her in to ask her to explain to his Spanish-speaking maid just how he wants his magazines laid out in the morning, and when he wants his coffee.
The fact that Lucia has published a book doesn’t give her any advantages here. In fact, she’s soon fuming from a colleague’s comment that “you know you’re the diversity hire, right?”
(Let it be said for the record that Saracho is no newcomer to TV writing: she’s written for HBO’s “Girls” and “Looking.”)
But Lucia will suffer the indignities of the newbie even worse because she’s the Latina newbie.
She and Abel have a lot in common in that regard: he’s Latino as well, and even lower on the work pecking order. Stereotypes abound here, but are played with such honesty that you’ll see them as real.
Lucia perseveres and finally gets a chance to write a script, or at least a treatment for one. By this time she’s learned some interesting things about Abel. He was a Marine and a fireman, for one. She thinks those things might make an interesting character, and Abel gives her permission to use them.
Saracho's engaging way with words – and the actors’ obvious but unintrusive commitment – keep the action riveting when it could easily come off as preachy.
Director Maria Patrice Amon keeps the pace snappy and sound designer Lily Voon chimes in with well-placed tunes as well.
Scene changes are defined as much by Mextly Almeda’s fine lighting as anything else, and Kristen Flores contributes a basic office set of office and hall that make clear the class distinctions.
Moxie (which specializes in theater by and about women) has staged “Fade” in collaboration with TuYo Theatre, a brand new Latinx company of which Amon is co-founder.
They’ve given us the San Diego premiere of a fine new play. Let’s hope more such collaborations are in the future.
“Fade” plays through November 11, 2018, at Moxie Theatre, 6663 El Cajon Boulevard.
Thursday at 7:30 pm; Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (858) 598-7620 or www.moxietheatre.com