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Under the Radar 2017: Latin Standards

Marga Gomez brings her new solo show to the Public Theater.

Marga Gomez performs her solo show Latin Standards as part of the Public Theater's Under the Radar festival.
(© Kent Taylor)

Frequenters of the now-defunct Esta Noche drag club in San Francisco's Mission District can take a trip down memory lane with Marga Gomez in her new solo act, Latin Standards, which she's performing at the Public Theater through Sunday as part of the 2017 Under the Radar festival.

Gomez has been seen on the big screen (Sphere) and the small (Comic Relief), but she's just as at home live onstage, where she candidly jokes, in this show, about her father (the singer and performer Willy Chevalier), her flighty girlfriends, the horrors of gentrification, and the vibrant San Francisco drag scene that she embraced and that embraced her back.

Her many fans won't want to miss this homage to her dad in a show she refers to as her "final farewell concert," though it's hard to believe she's really going to retire the mic. Latin Standards is structured loosely around four of her father's songs (the "standards"), each one serving as a jumping-off point for amusing anecdotes about things like Willy's attempts to land a Spanish-coffee commercial, and her attempts, in mangled Spanglish, to land a spot onstage at Esta Noche.

There's a lot to like about Gomez's show. She's a veteran of the stage, and her easy delivery proves that. She's at her best when impersonating her father, a charmingly old-school kind of performer. When coupled with Driscoll Otto's projections of black-and-white photos of Willy, Gomez's performance becomes poignant and moving.

Latin Standards is less successful at generating and sustaining the kind of laughter that audiences might be looking for. Gomez's self-deprecating comments ("I'm a lesbian, we need extra closure") tend to stick the landing, but some of her stories, such as an overlong description of her father making coffee, stumble and lose their way. It's moments like those where the 90-minute show seems most in need of a little nip and tuck.

Still, Gomez's affable stage presence gives Latin Standards a lift when the jokes don't quite carry it off. And throughout, she rarely goes blue to get a laugh — a relatively uncommon attribute of comics nowadays — so there's a classy but unpretentious quality to her routine. In that respect, Latin Standards makes the grade.