When playwright and actress Sandra Delgado stands at the intersection of Belmont and Sheffield Avenues, she focuses on not what sits on the southeast corner—a bagel shop and a bank—but rather what doesn’t. Fifty years ago, Latinos from all over Chicago flocked to the dance club there. But when La Havana Madrid, which inspired Delgado’s new play, closed in the 1960s, with it went the last trace of Lake View’s once-thriving Latino culture.
Delgado, a longtime stalwart of the Chicago stage, heard about La Havana Madrid from her father, who had immigrated to Chicago from Colombia in 1965. The conversation prompted her to hunt down anyone who had been to the club. Says Delgado: “Things kept popping up which really needed to be said.”
Though timely political questions about gentrification and immigrant struggles are never far from the surface, La Havana Madrid is, at its core, a paean to a bygone cultural nucleus in this city. In one vignette, a Cuban teenager comes to the club seeking refuge from her foster mother. In another, two young Colombian newlyweds, based on Delgado’s parents, share their first dance. Uniting the action is Delgado, playing an emcee named La Havana Madrid, a singing, dancing personification of the club itself.
Though the play features a variety of Chicago actors, Delgado knew she wanted to cast Roberto “Carpacho” Marin, a 68-year-old musician and her father’s best friend, as the bandleader. For Marin, performing the past onstage each night is like living in “a romantic ghost story.”
GO:La Havana Madrid runs April 14 to May 21 at Steppenwolf, 1700 N. Halsted St. $15 to $45. teatrovista.org
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