The Buzz

Review of “Shadows”

by Ray Rodriguez (Press-Telegram, 1999)

Shadows, performed Off Broadway in New York, NY, 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.


Review: ‘Shadows’ is a Loving memory of growing up in San Pedro

by John Farrell (Press-Telegram, 2015)

From left, Chloe Avia as Lisa, Isela Lopez as Grandma and Melissa Legaspi as Lupita star in “Shadows.” Photo by Steve Lowe

San Pedro has become theater mad, with four productions downtown opening last week alone. But it took Linda Dunton Delmar’s “Shadows” to fill a gap. The play is about, and based in, San Pedro, a unique community that has changed a lot in the last 60 or so years but still has very much of its original identity intact.
“Shadows” is set, for the most part, in the kitchen of a Mexican household in San Pedro in 1968, and is based on Delmar’s lively reminiscences of that household where she lived and grew up with her mother, father, grandmother and younger brother. The play was performed off-Broadway in 1999, and this performance in its hometown is directed by Delmar’s 28-year-old son, Derek Delmar, who also plays Roberto, the father of the family in this play.
The story is centered around Lisa, the teenager who loves her family but is embarrassed because she is of Mexican heritage in a white world, and even more embarrassed when she finds that she has inherited the female side of the family’s ability to foretell coming deaths of close friends and relatives. Lisa was the bright and charming Melissa Legaspi in Saturday afternoon’s performance, and she struck the right note of teen angst.
But her Grandma (played in this performance by Isela Lopez, in her first role) tells her she is different: She sees the shadows that all the women in her family see, shadows of the dead coming to take those who are dying into the light. Lisa wants none of it, and when her mom Lisa (Melissa Legaspi) seconds her Grandma’s story, Lisa is uncomfortable, to say the least.
But the story is largely a comic one, a friendly and familiar memoir of the past, of dinners of lengua and tripe (neither of which Lisa approves) and of learning family traditions.
Lisa’s younger brother Joey (Idris Sol Perez) is just the kind of brother many had back then — rambunctious but still lovable. Her father Roberto is a steady presence in her life. And Mr. Morales (played for comic effect by James Quesada) wants to collect the monthly insurance but also wants to get a more than occasional burrito.
Cai Robertson is Mr. Burl, the backyard neighbor who sings in the Baptist church and at a funeral, while David Martinez is Father Riley, who presides there, and Wanda Kenlow is the cougher, who keeps the funeral from being too funereal.
Someone does die, of course, but even the funeral is played for laughs, and the whole happy mess of family, food and superstitions is played out in happy memory. Obviously, Delmar has fond remembrances of her life in San Pedro, of her Latino heritage, brought back by the taste of a tortilla with pork chili verde — and she makes that clear.
San Pedro’s Grand Annex was a pleasant space for this charming play with a single set that could be changed to a garden or a church when needed, uncredited in design but built by Steve Mearing. It was effective and able to hold the entire cast when they were assembled for the penultimate funeral.
Delmar read one of her poems and told a brief story before the play began, and it was clear many of those in the audience went to school with Delmar.
John Farrell is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer.