She’s a Mexican-born writer, tenacious, insecure, a “diversity hire” for a popular television detective program. He’s an American-born janitor of Mexican heritage who works the night shift at the show’s film studio. They’re the characters in Tanya Saracho’s two-character “Fade,” getting an East Coast premiere at Off Broadway’s Primary Stages. It’s a wheel-spinner of a play that sets out to address issues of culture, class and the price of ambition, but ends up being as contrived as a telenovela.
A writer of such sharply observed shows as “Looking,” “Girls” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” Saracho seems confined here by the structure of a two-character one-act, especially on subjects she clearly knows well.
Lucia (Annie Dow) arrives late at night to set up her new office — a head-scratching time to decorate the new digs and clearly crafted as the only way for her to cross paths with after-hours custodian Abel (Eddie Martinez). But meet-cute isn’t in the air for the status-conscious writer. When Abel arrives to clean, Lucia hardly notices him — until she needs help.
But she needs more than someone to fix her shelving. Lucia needs someone to whom she can vent her anger, worries and frustrations. She tells him the all-male, all-white 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.