Marga Gomez is not getting any younger -- but, as she says, she has the smooth skin and elastic complexion that God gave Blacks and Latinos instead of economic prosperity.
That and she lies about her age. She lies about composting and flossing, sure. But the chronically desperate, manic comedian is willing to go to even greater lengths to ward of the impression that she is getting older. She is not beneath tampering with the sacred texts of Wikipedia. She will go so far as to eat paper, rather than share her age. (Watch. She'll do it.)
In Not Getting Any Younger, Gomez is back at The Marsh; almost twenty years after debuting her first one woman play there -- back when it was called "performance art."
I was there -- reviewing Marga's performance art. Which means I am exactly old enough to find this new show thoroughly up my alley. Bring it on, Marga, talking about kids today and grrr the internet. Rotary Phones!
The show is a hodge podge of scenes, stories and standup about aging and how it can be an assault to our vanity and bafflement to our obsolete sense of self. Or maybe that's just the meaning I'm ascribing to it
In a recent interview, Gomez explained that she is currently dating a woman 20 years younger than herself. And while her misadventures mismanaging love have been comic gold for Gomez in the past, this age gap isn't part of the current show. Although we do hear about how distressing it is to be called "ma'am" by a bartender at a "Nineties" party held by ironic hipsters.
Insight into being on the December side of a May/December relationship, might have given the show a focus or a center it doesn't currently have. It might have given the show a dimension past its playful curmudgeonry. Wearing just a bit of her heart on her sleeve, Gomez has always brought poignancy to her previous shows' appealing ludicrousness.
Some of her performances, like "Jaywalker" (about striving for stardom in Hollywood) and "Intimate Details" (about striving for sex in New Jersey), revealed Gomez's unmitigated neediness -- but without the back-story. It was her early work, 1991's stirring "Memory Tricks" about her mother's Alzheimer's and 1995's "A Line Around the Block" about her father, that lifted her comedy above stand-up.
In 2006, Marga Gomez combined the stories about her parents and mounted Los Big Names, a tell-all memoir-logue about her surreal upbringing by stupendously narcissistic parents. The show, which had a successful run in San Francisco and New York, was an inebriated bit of Lucy-scaled lunacy about growing up on stage, backstage and upstaged by Latino showbiz celebrities who happened to be parents.
In Not Getting Any Younger Gomez really cooks when she reprises her impression of her mother, Margarita, a Puerto Rican dancer. She drags little Marga through Freedomland, the now-defunct Bronx theme park, in search of Chubby Checker. Margarita, a beautiful, vivacious, unapologetically self-involved woman -- with a disappointingly pre-lesbian tomboy for a daughter -- has entered a Twist dance contest. Lying about her age -- she feigns 21 -- Margarita wins and steals the show. Both the show within the show and the show at the Marsh.
There are other entertaining moments and some that are so-so or don't gel. It's the character of Marga, her particular brand of narcissism and neurosis that makes her a perennially enjoyable performer.
As straight comedy, Gomez excels at observational grouchiness: on getting a death threat via Twitter, Gomez recalls that there used to be a time when you had to cut letters out of a magazine to make a death threat. Paste them, mail it, and wait seven days. Grr.
If you laugh along, you are part of the demographic that can now relate to Dana Carvey's Grumpy Old Man, from SNL.
And if you don't get that reference, you may be too young for this show too.
Marga Gomez is Not Getting Any Younger has been extended through December 17, 2011 at The Marsh, 1062 Valencia Street in San Francisco. For tickets and information visit themarsh.org or call 800-838-3006.
This piece has been published at KQED.org