Puerto Rican/Cuban-American comedian Marga Gomez performed “Latin Standards” at The Marsh Berkeley Arts Center on Oct. 6. This radiant one-woman show was full of heart and soul, relaying a sincere and touching tale of Gomez’s admiration for her father.
Marga Gomez certainly knows how to make a grand entrance. Clad in a bedazzled suit jacket that sparkled like the stars, she displayed her passion for performance and encouraged the audience to do the same through fervent applause and unrestrained laughter.
The structure of the show was extremely unconventional in the best sense; it was essentially an effectively synthesized stand-up comedy show with various theatrical aspects supporting it. Gomez specifically called it “a concert like no other” – an accurate description.
She introduced a tracklist of songs all created by her father and performed scenes to explain the history behind each track. Before doing so, Gomez humorously told the audience that she would intentionally be extending the songs’ introductions rather than focusing on singing the songs themselves.
When Gomez spoke about her experiences as a lesbian, she elaborated deeply on the time she spent in Esta Noche, a gay bar in San Francisco. She also mentioned the height of gentrification happening in that vicinity in 2012. This segment was a rather emotional moment because Gomez regarded this bar as a place where she felt she belonged. Unfortunately, Esta Noche permanently closed its doors along with many other gay and lesbian bars during that time period. Openly discussing such events in her life emphasizes how incredibly brave and strong Gomez is. Creating such animated, engaging humor out of personal pain is certainly not easy, but Gomez has successfully made it her signature craft.
The artistic influence she took from her parents’ lives definitely helped shape Gomez into the performer she is today, and she paid homage to this immersive experience thoroughly. She praised her father a great deal and did not forget to pay respects to her mother. At one point, she described her proclivities as a child raised in an artistic realm. When she was little, she had a penchant for going into her father’s closet while no one was home, dressing up in his attire — including ties and cufflinks — and imitating his performative style. This imagery paints a clear image of Gomez’s pure enthusiasm for artistic expression that molded her future.
Gomez’s impersonations of the people in her life were simply hilarious. Every character she did, every real-life person she recreated had peculiar gestures and a distinctive voice that made them memorable. These unique characteristics clarify the mark they each left in Gomez’s life. Gomez’s versatility in adopting multiple different personas deserves praise; she was able to switch between these characters so quickly and fluidly. Despite this flexibility, her own voice was never muddled or overshadowed.
She also constantly made sure that the audience was following along with her story, which had many tangents. The tangents kept the narrative dynamic and intriguing, but Gomez always brought the story effortlessly full circle. For instance, a moment before singing a song that she explained was ultimately about empty chairs, she described the shortcomings of her ex-girlfriend and verbally edited her description of the song as one about breaking up with a significant other.
The complexity of the show’s structure included many art forms such as voice-acting, singing and even a little bit of dancing. The fact that she was able to master all these forms not only showcased her talent but also her immense grit, curiosity and fearlessness.
The flashy aesthetic of the show, in general, reflected Gomez’s confidence in her identity and enthusiasm for her job. She is undoubtedly an exceptional role model and a shining darling of the LGBTQ+ community. Thus, seeing Marga Gomez in the flesh was amazingly more magnetic than her show itself.