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San Francisco by Richard Connema

The Explosive Marga Gomez Returns in Her Latino Family Saga Los Big Names

Also see Richard's review of The Knight of the Burning Pestle

Marga Gomez, who proudly says that she was the first openly gay comedian B.E. ("before Ellen"), is back in the Bay Area unleashing the riotous saga of her Latino family, headliners in New York Latin show business world of the '60s. She concludes the 80-minute solo show with stories about her "screen debut" in the big Warner Brothers' sea sci-fi epic Sphere which tanked rapidly at the box office.

The audience first sees the small stage setting of a large back-lit marquee with sliding letters one would see on a small town movie house. The letters state "Tito Puente / Lucho Gatica. Margarita y Willy Chevalier, La Familia Comica En Persona." There is a large metallic sign laying haphazardly against stage left with the letters ATRO (the bottom letters of "theatro"). Marga comes out dressed as her famous Cuban father Willy Chevalier, with no pants and sporting a typical Spanish mustache. She says her gringo producers did not have enough money to fully house the set and her wardrobe.

After a brief introduction, Willy disappears and out comes Marga dressed as a very svelte woman; she has a dynamic high energy that keeps the audience laughing. She discusses her dysfunctional growing up in a three-floor house on West 168th Street where the drapes and blinds were always closed during the day. The neighbors thought it was the home of a vampire family since they came out only at night with sunglasses. The artist talks about her volatile Cuban comedian father and the sexually attractive mother Margarita who was known as "Margo the Exotic" and had a belly dancing act.

Marga does wonderful impersonations of her parents and makes fun of the early Mexican movies, performing uproarious characterizations of some of the famous Latino stars. She talks about her first appearance on stage at age 12 with her parents in Willy's Theatro in Spanish Harlem. There are heartfelt stories about her parents' hot blooded divorce; she and her mother move out to a hotel where the father keeps knocking on the door begging them to come back as a family. Later she tells a touching story of her mother who has Alzheimer's decease.

Marga loves to make fun of Hollywood. The story of Kathleen Turner interviewing Marga her for a role in a Lifetime Movie is hilarious with the artist doing a perfect imitation in both voice and movement of the famous star. She even passes out 8 x 10 glossy prints of herself to the audience as she presented them to various producers. Most of the roles she applied for were Latino maids or persons who carried drugs. She also talks a lot about her first "big" movie role in Warners Brother's epic sea film Sphere, which was film partially at the Mare Island Naval yard in Vallejo in 1997.

Marga's stories of the film shoot are the high point of her act, especially when she reports that her character is the first to be killed by "jelly fishes." The second to be killed was African American actress Queen Latifah, leading to the question of why is it that minorities are always the first ones to be killed in these epics. Marga does a brilliant and hilarious camp scene in which she is attacked by jelly fish. When the movie was finally released, Ms. Gomez had only five lines.

Marga Gomez is a wonderful storyteller and has amazing, wild energy when telling these stories. Peter Marks of the Washington Post says it best, that she has "a sweet and saucy riff on life at the outer edge of the spotlight."

Ms. Gomez will hold forth on the stage of Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center at Marina Blvd, San Francisco through August 21. For tickets call Magic Theatre Box Office 415-441-8822 or visit www.magictheatre.org.


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema



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