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Los Big Names

by Rich See

This is more than unflattering hair...this is a hate crime!
---Marga Gomez

Marga Gomez
Marga Gomez
(Photo: Stan Barouh)

What do Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Jackson, and Peter Coyote have in common? They each starred with comedienne Marga Gomez in the little seen, but always available in discount bins, major motion picture Sphere. Miss Gomez -- star of vegetarian rodeos, lesbian cruises, and tranny dance parties -- brings her edgy, one-woman show, Los Big Names, to the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company this month. It's a hilarious, wild ride of humor and touching "momentitos" as she juxtaposes her 1960's Latino childhood against her 1990's "big break" in director Barry Levinson's ill-fated sci-fi epic.

Raised in a volatile performance-oriented family with her Cuban-born comedian father, Willy Chevalier, and her mother, the Puerto Rican dancer "Margo the Exotic;" Miss Gomez can bring a laugh with her impersonations, jokes, songs, and wonderful stories. As she makes fun of Hollywood, Latino culture, celebrities, fans, and the American cultural fascination with fame, she also brings self-deprecating humor to herself and her own quirks, as well as to her unique place as an out, lesbian comedienne. Having appeared in six other self-written solo shows, off-Broadway productions, on HBO, PBS, and in several films, Miss Gomez has a great deal of material to fall back upon. In Los Big Names her impersonations are hilarious, especially of Kathleen Turner (for whom she once auditioned) asking her to "love the camera".

With a one-person show like this, it's hard to imagine a writer/star handing over creative control to anyone. In Los Big Names, Miss Gomez has selected wonderful support in the form of director David Schweizer and designers Robert Timothy Jarbadan and Shannon Robert Bowen. Director Schweizer has Miss Gomez running around the stage in a kinetic, high energy performance. While the beginning of the 80-minute piece gets off to a rocky start, by the end it is a steady stream of laughs and the time passes quickly. The rocky portion seemed to be due to the evening's audience not being entirely aware that this was more a storytelling event, than an actual play. So when Miss Gomez came out and introduced herself and immediately began discussing her family, many in the audience didn't seem to understand what direction the evening's entertainment was taking.

Designer Shannon Robert Bowen's set is a simple one. A huge sphere hangs above a rolling blue box, a director's chair sits on the outskirts of the stage, while occasional trophies descend from the ceiling. It's all created to keep your focus on Miss Gomez as she uses her storytelling skills to transport you to her bi-coastal worlds of the Bronx and Hollywood. Sound Designer Robert Timothy Jarbadan's Latino music selections are infectious as is Miss Gomez' final advice: "Do what you love. For you."

Los Big Names
by Marga Gomez
Directed by David Schweizer
starring Marga Gomez
Set Design: Shannon Robert Bowen
Lighting Design: Lisa L. Ogonowski
Sound Design: Robert Timothy Jarbadan
Running Time: 1 hour and 20 minutes with no intermission
A production of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Kennedy Center Film Theatre, Washington
Telephone: 202-467-4600
TUE - SAT @8, SUN @2 & 7; $24 - $39
Opening 03/25/04, closing 04/18/04
Reviewed by Rich See based on 04/01/04 performance
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