Review: “Fade” (Victory Gardens Theater)

Show: Fade

Company: Victory Gardens Theater & Teatro Vista

Venue:  Victory Gardens Theater (2433 N. Lincoln Ave.)

“Fade” is a comedy that also serves as a biting critique on how easily a person’s race, class and gender become uncomfortable commodities, and it comes to the Chicago stage at an interesting time for abuse in the arts. As new light is shed on harassment and silenced voices  in what were supposed to be protected spaces, “Fade” shows us the lure of power and advancement and the disposability of anyone with the barest compulsion to speak out.

Teatro Vista and Victory Gardens Theater  and author Tanya Saracho have joined forces to produce a work that evokes laughs but also begs the question of each audience member: where would I draw my moral lines if there were no recourse for my actions? What would I do for a leg up in a world where odds are already stacked against me?

In “Fade”, a novelist and recent Chicago transplant Lucia (Sari Sanchez) has just begun a new life as the only writer of color for a floundering Hollywood Latinx television drama. She befriends a gruff janitor Able (Eddie Martinez) as a way of coping with her oppressively white, tone-deaf and abusive colleagues. However, as the two develop a genuine friendship, and Abel provides Lucia with intimate details of his life outside of work, Lucia realizes Abel’s story tops anything their milquetoast writers could come up with. The secrets he’s told her could easily advance her career if she was willing to invade his privacy. The only gritty authenticity that Lucia can muster, she had to outsource, but if a little moral compromise will net her a nicer office and  a cushier role, Abel will just have to understand.

The strengths that make director Sandra Marquez’s production stand out are the bursts of incredibly frank humor (after standing up for herself, Lucia screams “who’s the diversity hire, now, motherf*ckers?!”), an intricate stage brought to life by designer Regina Garcia, and an incredibly strong cast. Where the script struggles to take off early on in the show, you can’t help but stay transfixed to Lucia and Abel. Sari Sanchez’s Lucia is always on the verge of falling apart, crying into a fistful of corn nuts or venting her rage in the tiniest of outbursts. As Albel, Eddie Martinez is captivatingly stoic and dry as a bone. We’re so lucky to see him both guarded and unguarded; Abel is equal parts kind, troubling and world weary.

I encourage you to see this show if only to voice your support for diversity that rarely happens on Chicago stages: “Fade” has a majority Latinx cast, design team, and was written and directed by women of color. A show of this caliber should be happening an as many Chicago stages as possible.

TEN WORD SUMMARY: Ambition taints an authentic bond between two lonely, underappreciated souls.

DICE RATING: d12 — “Heckuva Good Show”