Fear and Loneliness in El Serano: “Fade”

Photo via Teatro Chelsea Facebook page.

Presented by Teatro Chelsea
By Tanya Saracho
Directed by Armando Rivera
Movement direction by Audrey Johnson
Intimacy direction by Olivia Dumaine
Featuring: Luz Lopez & Cristhian Mancinas Garcia

June 19th – 30, 2024
Chelsea Theatre Works
181 Winnisimmet Street
Chelsea, MA 02150

Teatro Chelsea in METRMAG

Critique by Kitty Drexel

The play is presented in English and some Spanish. Run time is approximately 106 minutes with no intermission.

CHELSEA, Mass. — Teatro Chelsea’s Fade at Chelsea Theatre Works was excellent. At 106 minutes in a wee black box, it was compact and intimate. Congratulations to the cast and crew on a successful run and a sold-out final performance! 

Mexican-born novelist Lucia (Luz Lopez) moves to El Sereno, Los Angeles to write for a copaganda TV series. She forges an unexpected friendship with the Mexican American custodian, Abel (Cristhian Mancinas Garcia), because she is homesick, and he speaks Spanish. As their friendship grows, Abel trusts Lucia with the details of his life. The boundaries between his stories and hers fade. 

Scenic designers director Rivera and Alfonso Ceciliano created an office microcosm in Chelsea Theatre Works. The set was a self-contained macro-cube with green carpeting, stocked minifridge, and a printer. It looked like a mock office from a Boston Design Center showroom. Swanky and functional. 

Fade is a story about loneliness. Lucia is young, rudder-less, and alone in a new city; Abel is older, more stable, more mature, but equally as lonely. Although they are divided by social class and working shifts, after some squabbling, they become friends. Lucia lures Abel into her swanky office with pizza and posh beer to discuss work gossip. Abel lets her. It is a strong person who isn’t swayed by long lashes, a pretty smile, and free beer.   

Luz Lopez and Cristhian Mancinas Garcia worked exceedingly well together. They fought convincingly; they became friends convincingly. They were so convincing, so utterly likable that their inevitable estrangement was difficult to bear. Lucia is intelligent and sweet. Abel is gruff, but there’s a good guy under his hard shell. 

Photo by Faith Nguyen.

Teatro Chelsea told us in the play’s summary that Lucia and Abel grow apart. We knew it was going to happen, but it was still difficult to watch. We wanted them to be best friends, to sneak beers and gab about derivative episode plots in Lucia’s office until they both retired. They didn’t and watching them grow apart hurt. Our emotional commitment is a testament to Lopez’s and Mancinas Garcia’s good work. 

Movement director Audrey Johnson’s inter-scene dance sequences were plucky and functional. Aided by Desiree Salvo’s lighting design, Johnson’s choreography was reminiscent of TikTok viral dances while also being functional. We saw Abel vacuum and Lucia toss papers. It was clear the characters were outside of the in-the-moment reality of Lucia’s office, but we could only guess how far removed from reality they were.  

The duo’s power dynamic is uncomfortable. Lucia is an insecure woman with more job security than Abel. Abel is an office custodian consoling his friend during his evening shift. Lucia takes advantage of Abel’s mutual loneliness; Abel takes risks that could get him fired. Anyone who saw the two of them together, in her office, with the door closed, might make lewd assumptions. If the roles were reversed (and they frequently are), H.R. would be called and an inquiry into their friendship filed. But, because their genders and power dynamics are swapped, we assume neither will abuse their relationship. We are wrong. 

An insecure person with a teeny bit of unchecked power will use that power to their advantage. They won’t mean to hurt anyone else in the beginning. In the end, they won’t care if have because they are convinced they work for the greater good. In Fade, the greater good is job one person’s job security.  

Fade discusses how many creative people in creative industries lack creativity. Lucia is a published novelist who took a job in TV to pay bills. She has years of writing experience to pull from, but she doesn’t. She betrays her only friend to appease her boss. Honestly, the creative industries deserve better. We deserve better. If artists are going to betray each other, let’s do it for better gigs and better reasons. Go for the gold, and do it for union memberships, college loan forgiveness, and comprehensive health benefits. Scorch the earth for nothing less.    

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