The Marsh Center presents Marga Gomez in an encore presentation of Latin Standards.
October 5th – November 18th, 2018. Most shows at 8pm.
The Marsh Arts Center
2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, California.
“Elegantly structured and cleverly staged, it’s both touching and funny.” – SF Examiner
In her 12th and final solo play Latin Standards Marga Gomez performs the loving, funny and true story of perseverance and creative addiction passed down from immigrant father to lesbian daughter.
Mixing nostalgia, urgency, and comic edge, Gomez portrays herself as a driven adult child of a Cuban entertainer. Defying reason she attempts to produce a hipster comedy night at a struggling Latino drag queen club, Esta Noche, during the onset of San Francisco’s gentrification crisis. Between vivid portrayals of characters from 1960’s Manhattan to present day San Francisco, Gomez ponders the ballads (or Latin Standards) penned by her late father Willy Chevalier: a comedian/producer/entrepreneur and composer of dance tunes that reveled in jealousy and obsession.
New York Times 2017 “Critic’s Pick!”
- Mixing nostalgia, urgency, and comic edge, Gomez portrays herself as a driven adult child of a Cuban entertainer.
- Written/Performed by Marga Gomez, Directed by David Schweizer.
- Latin Standards premiered at the Public Theater’s “Under The Radar Festival” in 2017 and was also presented at The Los Angeles Theater Company’s “Encuentro De Las Americas,” Segerstrom Center For The Arts in Costa Mesa, Chicago’s Urban Theater Company and most recently at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. Latin Standards was developed at Brava in 2016 and will be making it’s official San Francisco premiere in January 2018.
Photo of her parents:
Latin Standards: De Mí Para Tí (From Me to You)
Marga Gomez’s 12th solo play takes a page from Philip Larkin’s famous poem about how our parents fuck us up in spite of their best efforts.
In Latin Standards, her 12th and — what she’s calling her final solo play — the comedian and performer Marga Gomez also casts a forgiving glance back at her late father’s life. (The portrait of her mother is less so … but more on that later).
Under the stage name Willy Chevalier, né Wilfredo Gomez, her father’s raison d’être was show business. For a time, in the 1950s and ’60s, his Spanish language accomplishments in entertainment ranged from writing songs that landed Tito Puente and Trio Los Condes on the Latin Billboard charts to buying and reviving a theater venue, Teatro Latino, on 125th Street and Third Avenue in New York. In 1984, however, at the time of his death, his music career had faltered.
Gomez briefly attributes his career collapse to addictions — but she’s careful not to elaborate or linger on the unhappy details. Her natural instinct as a performer, and as a playwright shaping the material, is to make the audience feel good. As she jogged onto Brava Theater Center’s newly opened cabaret stage, her presence notably inspired affection from the audience. The feeling was palpable and warmed up the atmosphere in the room the way that firelight does. One of the themes that kept bubbling up in Latin Standards was community, specifically the queer and Latino communities. After having worked in the Bay Area for decades, she’s still fiercely committed to the idea of keeping tolerant, queer-friendly public spaces open in San Francisco by acknowledging that they’re rapidly disappearing.
But the framework of her show is personal and runs on parallel tracks. She recounts her own ambition to run a comedy night in 2012 out of the now defunct Esta Noche, the first gay Latino bar in San Francisco, while also fondly teasing the meanings out of her father’s songs.
As the music plays in the background, she translates the Spanish lyrics in the context of her parents’ rocky, 12-year marriage and their inevitable divorce. She exhibits an unwavering pride in her father’s work but lovingly — and hilariously — mocks the melodrama in songs like “De Me Para Ti” and “En El Ultimo Escalon.” It’s in these anecdotes that her mother, a former chorus girl, receives funny but damning impressions. Having not seen all of Gomez’s work, it might be that her mother appears elsewhere in fuller emotional regalia.
And, obviously, Latin Standards focuses on Chevalier and what Gomez has inherited from him — a gift for entertaining people. But drifting about in these parental anecdotes a question mark remains: What were their childhoods like? In this play, she avoids parsing the Larkin line, “But they were fucked up in their turn.” There’s no mention of her grandparents or their influence, negative or positive, on their children. Admittedly, those stories might have muddied or cluttered up the show’s primary subject, a daughter coming to terms with her father’s legacy. But they could also be on hold for a memoir, screenplay or a 13th solo show sometime in the distant future. Or maybe it’s just none of our business. The problem is this — in watching Gomez open up on stage about her father and her career, she made everyone laugh and feel better for an hour and a half. It was actually sad to watch the house lights dim down, as we hoped against hope for an encore.