"La Havana Madrid" Review - A very special musical tribute to Chicago's Latino Community

Teatro Vista’s “La Havana Madrid” is now in production at The Goodman Theatre (The Owen), 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago, through August 20th, 2017 after successful runs at The Miracle Center in Logan Square and at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

Playwright and Co-Star Sandra Delgado

The play was created by Sandra Delgado, who also stars in a strong performance as the proud and vivacious singer/hostess named “La Havana Madrid” who performs at the Latin nightclub of the same name which actually existed at Belmont and Sheffield in the 60’s and 70’s and was a go-to place for newly arrived immigrants.

 

 Directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce, this is a warm and vibrant historical tribute to the lives of the Latino citizenry in Chicago, told through their music, featuring Krystal Ortiz, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Valeria Rosero, Donovan Diaz, Claudia Quesada, Mike Oquendo, and Marvin Quijada, along with the fine musicians of “Carpacho y su Super Combo”, Roberto “Carpacho” Marin, bandleader and bass; Yendrys Cespedes, Music Director/pianist; Carol MacPherson, trombone; Cristobal “El Animal” Flores; timbales; and Guido Acevedo, congas.

La Havana Madrid cast and audience members dancing to Carpacho y Su Super Combo

The charming and viewer-friendly set extends into the house itself; it eventually encompasses the neighborhood, the nightclub and the interior of the Owen, which for this play is entirely composed of intimate cocktail tables for 4. The audience joined right into the performance, laughing, clapping, chanting and ultimately dancing with the actors.

 

The play is actually a series of immigrant stories told in monologue and dialogue, collated and conflated from interviews with people whose stories exemplified the experience Delgado wanted to capture; a number of these persons were present on opening night.

Mike Oquendo and Sandra Delgado

There is the Cuban adolescent (Krystal Ortiz) sent here in a large group without her parents, who settles in Evanston and finds at the club the music and cultural camaraderie for which she longs. A Columbian couple (Tommy Rivera-Vega and Valeria Rosero)) recounts their sweetly sheltered meeting, his emigration to find work, their “proxy” marriage, and ultimate glad reunion; they are celebrating their first anniversary at the club.

 

The remaining stories, all about Puerto Ricans, all told bitterer tales. A young man (Donovan Diaz) was picked on by whites and blacks alike as his family was forced to move repeatedly by relentless “gentrification”; joining a gang to retaliate, he was saved from a life of violence by a teacher at his last-stop “special” school who gave him a camera to record, rather than act out his feelings.  The former owner of the club (Mike Oquendo) had a difficult adjustment to make; his family went from one-time political prominence in Puerto Rico to squalor and prejudice in Chicago, although he ultimately became the host of his own radio show. Introducing a beauty contest winner (Claudia Quesada) for whom success was swiftly followed by racial attacks, he speaks eloquent advice. Finally, Carpacho the musician (Marvin Quijada) accompanied by the actual Carpacho on bass together tell the story of a man literally chased by immigration officials on his way to musical success.

Marvin Quijada, Claudia Queseda, Krystal Ortiz and Donovan Diiaz

At the end, the audience is reminded of the many strata of immigrant history Chicago has been built upon- would that the cycle of suffering and prejudice were all in our past!

Kudos to the entire Creative Team, notably: Cheryl Lynn Bruce, Director and Dramaturge, for an upbeat but realistic vision amid a history lesson; Ashley Ann Woods, Scenic Designer, for bringing us into the set; Costume Designer Elsa Hiltner, for clothing the festivities with vibrance and flourish; and William Carlos Angulo, choreographer, for spunky salsa footwork.

Valeria Rosero and Tommy Rivera-Vega

For information and tickets, go to the Goodman website

 

All photos by Erik Scanlon

 

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