Thursday October 19th 2017

“La Havana Madrid”- revisited

In reality, Teatro Vista’s “La Havana Madrid” is on its third-go-round, now at the Goodman Theatre, on their Owen stage. From the start, when I saw this show at Steppenwolf’s 1700 stage, I knew that this was a treasure for Chicago audiences. My review is further down, as in reality the show and story have not changed, only the venue has become larger, so that more Chicagoans can get to see this very special production. Written by Sandra Delgado , who also plays our “hostess”, La Havana Madrid, this is a history lesson about our city and its cultures as told by the newcomers who made the trip(s) to get from wherever to here. While the play celebrates our vibrant Latino Community, it speaks to all of the others that have come before and after, as well. This is a city of “immigrants”! They built it! They live it!

After “1700” they moved to Logan Square’s Miracle Center, allowing the Puerto Rican community a better opportunity to experience theater. Not just theater, but meaningful theater. Ms Delgado wrote this piece as part of a new script program sponsored by the Goodman, so it is very fitting that they host the full production directed with style and grace (even with the move of venue) by Cheryl Lynn Bruce. The Owen has been transformed into a club; tables and chairs facing the stage area where we watch an amazing group of musicians add the musical flavor to the stories being told by the immigrants who open their hearts and souls to us about their journey to Chicago (via many avenues and places).

My review itself has not changes. In fact, I enjoyed it even more the second time around. Who knows, maybe in the future I will see it again and fall in love all over again. I would like to see the Goodman make one change though. Perhaps they should not have open seating, as there were people who got there early and held tables. Why not take the names and numbers of patrons and have ushers “seat” them upon arrival and set a rule, that there is a cut-off time. Come late, sit upstairs, should be the rule! Other than that-

“La Havana Madrid” will continue at The Goodman’s Owen Theatre located at 170 N. Dearborn Street thru August 20th with performances as follows:

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m.

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  8 p.m.

Saturdays  2 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m.

Tickets range from $30-$50 and are available at the box office, by calling 312-443-3800 or online at http://eee.GoodmanTheatre.org/lahavanamadrid

as always the Goodman offers $10Tix (student day of subject to availability with student ID) and MexxTix, half-off Mezzanine on day of (subject to availability).

To see what others have said and are saying (mixture of venues and productions) go to www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “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.

 

 

 

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