Review of “Shadows”
by Ray Rodriguez (Press-Telegram, 1999)
A play opens in San Pedro and ends up in Off Broadway in New York City. Not too shabby by anyone’s standards! The play is “Shadows”, written by Linda Delmar, who grew up in San Pedro but now lives in Long Beach. The only way to describe Linda is as a talented, human dynamo. I first became aware of her two years ago when she was involved in launching the Latino Artists Coalition.
“Shadows”, her latest dramatic effort, is based on her experiences growing up in a Mexican-American family steeped in the beliefs and traditions of its elders. The title alludes to the belief among many Mexicans and other Latinos that departed relatives and friends return as shadows to escort home those who are on the verge of dying. As a youngster, I recall hearing about the appearance of shadows, which were often accompanied by the eerie howling of dogs who sensed the presence of death.
However, only those chosen can actually see the shadows. In her family, Lisa, the teenage daughter, played by Andrea Cruz, is the one who is so blessed, or as she views it, cursed. She rebels against believing in or accepting her family’s mystical folklore, and would like nothing better than to disprove what she considers to be nothing more than a superstitious belief. Her talent, poise and youthful vivaciousness lend credence to her role.
When a beloved neighbor dies unexpectedly after Lisa has seen the shadows, she and her family are distraught. Was her death coincidental? It all seems to reinforce the belief in the shadows’ extraterrestrial mission. Conveying the sense of loss and frustration and meshing them with religious and superstitious beliefs is a challenging task. However, Linda Delmar achieves it with just the right mixture of pathos and humor. In what could have easily deteriorated into a didactic sermon, Delmar emphasizes the human aspects of how we handle grief induced by the loss of a loved one. Linda is able to achieve the merger of the two elements due to being a multi-talented individual. She is not only a playwright and producer, but also a poet and storyteller. She regularly reads her stores of myths and superstitions to local school children. Her intent is not merely to entertain but to create awareness and an understanding of the diverse cultures and beliefs that comprise our social and intellectual collage. She is a graphic artist painting in bold, colorful strokes to convey an aura of mystical impressions, ideas and values.
In writing stories and producing plays about Latino folklore, Linda Delmar has undertaken a difficult and challenging role. This is obvious by noting the lack of movie and television programs dealing with issues important to Latinos. Nonetheless, Linda isn’t deterred by the obstacles she knows she must surmount. Like all trailblazers, she is determined to persevere and be heard, I have no doubt she will succeed, because her stories illuminate not only the Latino but the human experience. All cultures are steeped in myths and folklore.
As I sat and watched the play in San Pedro, I listened to the reaction of the audience. Surprisingly, the majority were not Hispanics, but obviously they were empathetic and in tune with the Latino culture. If the audience in New York is as sophisticated, the play should receive rave notices. Given the number of Latinos now living in New York City, it should be a smashing success. Seldom to audiences get an opportunity to look into the mind and soul of real human beings. It is a treat that is rare in today’s often superficial theater.
“Shadows” was originally produced in Long Beach to a limited but receptive audience. I hope that after the play returns from Off Broadway, Linda will re stage it here once again. The old adage that nothing succeeds like success is appropriate in this case. How often do Long Beach audiences get an opportunity to see an Off Broadway production. Not only would Linda Delmar and the cast have an opportunity to perform for a hometown audience, local residents will enjoy a rare treat. Those of us, regardless of our ethnicity, who grew up in a less sophisticated era will undoubtedly be able to recognize and appreciate our own mystical roots.
Ray Rodgriguez is a free-lance writer whose column appears weekly.