Thursday, June 27, 2019

Review of Teatro Vista and Collaboraction's La Havana Madrid

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called La Havana Madrid. It was by Sandra Delgado and it was directed by Cheryl Lynn Bruce. Music direction was by Roberto Marin and Yendrys Cespedes. The choreographer was Wilfredo Rivera. It was about a club called La Havana Madrid (represented by Delgado) largely populated by the Latinx community. It was a place of community and reflection and safety for them where they could be themselves and find home in one another as they tell each other stories of where they came from, how they met the most important people in their lives, and finding their own passions. This show is about love, injustice, and finding hope. This is an amazing, hopeful, and truthful show that explores many sides of the Latinx experience and how the world around us has changed but also brings to light the ways it still needs to. This is a show that tells a very important story in an communal and new way.

This show is heavily fueled by music, which seems to symbolize elements of community. In each story that was told there would be some part of it that showed how music influenced their lives. I think that this is a great way to tie these stories together in a way that also relates to the setting. It also allows more audience involvement which can bring the audience closer to the stories being told. Sometimes in a show audience participation can seem forced, as if they put it in the show to make sure the audience was engaged, but it felt very natural and communal here. It also enhanced the story which oftentimes audience participation does not. One place this link between music and community was very clear was in Maria's (Ayssette Muñoz) story. She has just moved to the States and missed her parents and her home, so to get a taste of what she is missing she goes to La Havana Madrid. There she found she could express herself through dance and then she offers us her hand to dance with her.

All of the stories in this show were super important to tell and were performed beautifully. They showed varied aspects of Latinx experiences of immigration and life in the United States. One story that really stood out to me was Carlos’s (Victor Musoni). He talked about his path to activism which was very moving and well-performed. The image that really stuck with me was at the very end of his story and of the first act he is seen putting on a black beret while people chanted around him and he seemed to have found his place, the place he felt he was needed and belonged. Even though it is a moment of rebellion, it was very touching and powerful and sweet.

Even though this show is about discrimination and injustice, it shows how these people still found joy in their lives even if the world was trying to tear them down. This brings in some more joyful and bittersweet moments in the show, which make for very complex story telling. Sometimes shows that are devised from many true stories that don't fully connect to each other can seem un-thought-through and preachy, but this show finds throughlines in the story and also does not just yell at the audience about how bad the world is and was. The characters talk about what they did to cope with hard times and then showed us how. Carpacho (Marvin Quijada) does a tutorial for us on how to play the stand-up bass and how much joy jazz and salsa brings him. This contrasts with stories of having to hide from immigration officers. The character seems to say this is how I got through the hardest times in my life and possibly it could help you with people not accepting you. This approach is a lot more enjoyable and enthralling to experience and was done very well throughout the show. The actual bandleader and bass player for the show, Roberto Marin, was who this story was about, and it shows how his path in life led him to sharing music with us. It was powerful to see a person who had struggled get to do what he loved and that he is still doing it to this day.

People who would like this show are people who like stories of community, memorable themes and images, and non-oppressive audience participation. I think this is a great show and is like nothing I've seen before. I really enjoyed it while it was also an informative and immersive experience that I would recommend. I really liked it.

Photos: Joel Maisonet

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