“Oh my god,” I said, turning in my seat. “Oh my god.” Such was my reaction at the end of FADE, a small production by Seattle Public Theater at the Bathhouse Theatre. The show used two actors, and one set. FADE is an unapologetically Latinx play about how people bond and change over time.
Lucia (Pronounced Loo-see-uh, never loo-sha) arrives late at night, and meets after-hours custodian Abel (A-bell, not able). When Abel arrives to clean, Lucia ignores him, that is until she needs help. Yet, Lucia needs more than someone to fix her shelving. She needs someone to whom she can vent to. Lucia tells Abel that the straight, white, cis, male writing staff sees her merely as a token, and her boss sees her as a translator for when he needs to scold his Latina maid. From the beginning she knows she’s on shaky ground. Her writing resume is thin, having only written one novel. She looks down on the show she’s writing for, which from the snippets heard is more like a program from another era. After she softens her spoiled and entitled attitude, she and Abel banter. They discuss who is more Mexican, the correct usage of Hispanic and Latino, and indignities suffered on them by the culturally uninformed and the resentment of being seen as a stereotype—while making plenty of assumptions and generalities about others, and each other.
The set is every office from your worst nightmares: cold, fluorescent lights illuminate a drab gray, and sparsely decorated room. It helped develop the sense of sterility, and unbelonging. It was interesting how toward the end you would see the characters getting affected by the environment via costume choices. The clothes became more uniform and drab, and less bright. Over the course of the play, a lamp is brought in, and some minor items are moved or shifted, but overall it remained the same exhausting, oppressive environment.
FADE at Seattle Public Theater. Photo by John Ulman.
When the overhead lights were turned off, pink and blue backlights silhouetted many scenes, while fun music played in the background. Abel would come in and take the trash, Lucia would grab a coat or bag. These scenes were cleverly used to mark the passage of time. They had a very day-in-the-life feel to them, and helped to draw the audience into the world.
There were only two characters being portrayed, so there was a lot of time to develop their personality. However, I felt it was done with exceptional care to perfectly justify both of them. Neither of them were remotely two-dimensional, and seem completely human. Lucia was a tiny bit strange, awkward, idealistic, and privileged. Abel was quiet, cynical in an oddly insulting way, and sarcastic. Both characters were nuanced, being both lovable and irritating at times.
Music is playing all the time: from when the audience enter the lobby until the end of the show. Most of the music was fun, upbeat Latin music, but occasionally there was a sad song to reflect the mood of the characters. While they never interacted with the music, it reflected their emotions and relationship.
At the end, Lucia transforms herself into the very thing she despised, perhaps as a metaphor about how harmful ambition can be. It was perfectly crafted because, while you left thinking deeply about the play, there were no plot holes, or unanswered questions, except for the omnipresent what comes next? This play moved me deeply, despite me not knowing the culture. I was dragged along and into the world, and was touched by the human characters. The play is for anyone and everyone, and leaves you with a new view of the way human beings are affected during their daily lives, both by other humans, and their jobs.