Tuesday February 20th 2018

“La Havana Madrid”

Highly Recommended ***** I am a Chicagoan, born and bred. Yes, I live in the suburbs today, and there were some other time periods where I did likewise, but, in my mind, my heart and my soul, I am a Chicagoan! Chicago is a city of neighborhoods! This is what a lot of advertising states. I agree! But as they say in Teatro Vista’s World Premiere performance art-piece, now on the stage of Steppenwolf’s “1700 Theatre”, there is a double meaning to this statement. It could easily mean, you stay in your neighborhood, not in mine!

This new piece, written by Sandra Delgado, who up until now, in my mind was just a terrific actress, is a stunning bit of history about our city and the changes of the neighborhoods. The intimate space in Steppenwolf on Halsted, in the 1700 North entrance (thus the venue name 1700) is set up as a club of the 1960’s (set design by Ashley Ann Woods) as we sit at tables looking at the dance floor and the bandstand where the action takes place. There are also screens on either side of the stage so that videos ( designed by Liviu Pasare) take us back in time along with the players. On the North side, we had a nightclub called “La Havana Madrid”. This was the main attraction for the newly-arrived Latinos of that day. The area where it was located was  Belmont and Sheffield ( just a half-mile South of Wrigley Field, second floor-now a hair salon). There were many other spots of the same nature,  a place to congregate amongst those who shared a common interest, in particular the music and traditions of “home” (their “homes”).

The play  is inspired by actual events and people’s stories. When Delgado began her project (3ARTS) I think it was her dream to do a documentary entitled “La Habana”,  The stories of  those who came to the club, and in this production ,each tells their story. Why they left Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia etc. to seek a new life in America. The play is in fact a history lesson as well as one of Chicago geography. When the Latinos began to come here, they settled along the lakefront (now, fo rthe most part, the “high rent district” but ONLY to the North Side. From North Avenue to Devon, and from the lake West to about Western (this changed later). While they were from different countries and left for different reasons, they united together as “outsiders” and their music brought them, and kept them together. Their music was unique and different, but somehow felt natural. Perhaps the success of this production will allow a film version to be produced so this message can reach a greater number of people.

The play talks about being outsiders, and how for many Puerto Ricans, they were faced to fear trouble from the Whites and the Blacks, neither wanting to feel that they were pro. The stories we hear are real. The Cubans who left by the thousands in what was called The “Peter Pan” program, as told by  Maria (the lovely and charming Krystal Ortiz). 14,000 plus kids were transported to America, many landing in Chicago. They were placed in foster homes and orphanages all over the city and suburbs. Many of these teens were not to be with another Latino for a great while and had to make adjustments.

We also hear the stories about those who came from Columbia and found work, but could not go home to marry their loved ones. One couple ended up saying their vows while in separate churches; he in The United States, her in Columbia. A beautiful tribute to true love (Tommy Rivera-Vega and Phoebe Gonzalez. Another story details the life of Carlos (Donavan Diaz), a Puerto Rican who details the “gang” situation of the 1960’s explaining a great deal about some of what we heard, but just a little more accuracy. This is also true of the saga of the 1960’s Humboldt Park Riots that lasted 8 days and could have easily been avoided. Juts think. Almost 60 years ago, a young teen was shot by a police officer in the city of Chicago, producing ill-will among our residents. Can History repeat itself? It may just be a victim of another shade of Brown.

Rather than tell you all of what this beautiful story has within its spirits, I suggest that you find a way to get to see it for yourself. It is inspiring, it is honest, it is historical and pretty factual. The music played is wonderfully played by Carpacho and his super combo (by the way, Carpacho is played, as a character to perfection by Marvin Quijado (but the real man plays the music). Other cast members are:Mike Oquendo, Cruz Gonzalez-Cadel , and the mistress of ceremonies, narrator/story-teller and spirit of the times by Sandra Delgado. WOW! You will find yourself falling in love with her as she brings you into her world. By the way, it is a world you will enjoy being in. I did!

Smoothly directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, who shows her understanding of the cultural situation that these people faced- color, jobs, immigration ( still a problem 60 years later). Each actor yearned to learn more and based on the final production, Ms Bruce made sure that they did (as I am sure did she). As I said earlier, this is a Chicago history lesson. The neighborhoods have changed, that is for sure, but in all cases, those who left or may have been forced to do so by “urban removal” ( I know, they tend to call this Urban Renewal, but we all understand politics and dollars make the rules) are replaced by a different type of “person” , and who knows how long it might be before they get their turn. Take your teen-agers. Let them see just how powerful the history of Chicago is and how as Ms Delgado says so succinctly “Music is Love” and “La Havana Madrid” is pure music.

“La Havana Madrid” will continue at Steppenwolf 1700 Theatre located at 1700 North Halsted Street thru May 28th (already extended) with performances as follows:

Thursdays  8 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  8 p.m.

Sundays  4 p.m.

Starting in MAY, add  Wednesdays  8 p.m.

RUN TIME 2 hours with an intermission

On Wednesday, May 3rd, the role of La Havana Madrid will be done by Michelle J. Rodriguez instead of Playwright Delgado

Tickets range from $15- $50 (well worth the price) and can be ordered by calling 312-335-1650 or online at http://www.steppenwolf.orgor www.teatrovista.org

Following its run at 1700, Teatro Vista will move the show to The Miracle center located at 2311 N. Pulaski in Logan Square ( a very Latino neighborhood that is going through some changes today) with performances as follows:

June 2-4th and June 9-11th.

Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m.

Sundays at 4 p.m.

All tickets will be $20 making it very affordable theater (with a touch of history and geography). Visit www.teatrovista.org

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “La Havana Madrid”

Also- may I suggest taking a drive down Division Street between Western and Humboldt Park, under the “flags” to get the feeling of Puerto Rico in Chicago. Stop in at SalsaChicago and spend some time with Miguel Medez-learn the music!

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