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Marga Gomez’s lovable ‘Latin Standards’

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Marga Gomez appears in her fun and personal show at Brava. (Courtesy Fabian Echevarria)

To put comedian-performer Marga Gomez’s wonderful new autobiographical solo, “Latin Standards,” into context: The local solo theater scene is booming. In addition to The Marsh, the longtime, invaluable purveyor of solo theater, PlayGround’s solo festival is currently running, as is, in Mountain View, Hershey Felder’s one-man “Our Great Tchaikovsky” at TheatreWorks. And Louis Anderson’s solo “Dear Dad” just closed at American Conservatory Theater.

Like “Dear Dad,” Gomez’s play is a tribute to her late father: the charming, and flawed, Cuban musician with the phony French stage name: Willie Chevalier.

Elegantly structured and cleverly staged, it’s both touching and funny.

In a gold lamé jacket, a short haircut and an endearingly gap-toothed grin that’s somehow both sheepish and conspiratorial, Gomez simply owns the stage, which happens to be a brand new one: Brava’s just-opened intimate cabaret space next door to its grand theater in the Mission District.

Deftly weaving multiple themes together — including the gentrification of the neighborhood, the need for the Latinx community to stick together and, well, coffee — Gomez re-creates scenes from her childhood with her father, and juxtaposes them with descriptions of her own recent few years producing a comedy show at the Latino drag club Esta Noche in the Mission.

Imagined as a “final farewell concert,” complete with fake microphone, the tiny stage glitzed up with glittery palm trees, she connects the strands by translating into English the lyrics of the songs her father wrote, as we simultaneously listen to them on the sound system, sung by various Latin groups. It’s a smart theatrical device.

Under David Schweizer’s excellent direction, Gomez embodies not just Willie, but also her flashy Puerto Rican mother, the sleazy owner of Esta Noche and her own insipid ex-girlfriend, the pseudonymous Gwyneth, imparting fine points of gesture, voice and expression that bring each individual to vibrant life.

Gomez has re-created her parents in some of her many earlier, equally hilarious, pieces.

But this one illuminates her relationship with her father — whose show-biz career inspired her own — in new ways. She sees now, with the greatest generosity, how uncannily alike are father and daughter.

And in that specificity of detail, and in that clarity, “Latin Standards” becomes universal.

That is, Gomez’s gift is such that even if you’re not a Latina lesbian comedian from New York with a flamboyant and somewhat irresponsible Dad, you’re likely to find yourself thinking of your own father — and forgiving him his deficiencies.

Latin Standards
Presented by Brava! For Women in the Arts
Where: Brava Cabaret, 2781 24th St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, closes Jan. 28
Tickets: $25 to $30
Contact: www.brava.org

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