Volume 18 • Issue 49 | April 21 - 27, 2006

Photo by Pat Johnson

Marga Gomez as her father, Willy Chevalier, in her 90-minute performance piece about her family, herself, and her two-year foray into Hollywood.

Miss Marga Gomez’s big breaks

By Jerry Tallmer

Willy Chevalier, who opens the show, moustache and all, has a simple, basic philosophy of life: “Women, you can’t live with them, then you die.”

The woman he mostly couldn’t live with, for 12 extremely volatile years, was his wife Margarita. She was from Puerto Rico. He was from Cuba. She was a dancer: “Mambo, Merengue, Cha-Cha and Belly.” He was a comedian, a producer, an emcee “of Latino variety” in uptown Manhattan.

“But who am I and why am I here?” says Willy. “That is the question. Don’t ask my daughter Marga. She don’t know and she wrote this.”

He strips off his moustache, walks behind a screen, pulls off his jacket, kicks off his shoes — and emerges as daughter Marga Gomez, lovely, alive, and lesbian, here to break our laughing hearts again, this time with a 90-minute performance piece called “Los Big Names” at the 47th Street Theatre through May 14.

She plays her macho father, who all his life addressed her as “Miss Gomez,” she plays her glamour-girl mom, she plays herself, and she plays los half-dozen Big Names of her, Marga’s, two-year foray into Hollywood, starting with Kathleen Turner, who, in a khaki safari outfit, auditioned Marga for the role of a maid in a Lifetime TV movie.

“Oh, that was good, fresh … But I don’t know, let’s try something here. This time I want you to throw the lines away. See that feather duster behind you? I want you to throw the lines away while you dust. Can you do an accent? Oh, wait! I think we’d have more resonance if you vacuumed. Yes? Vacuum here and here and under there... You’re vacuuming … You’re my friend.”

It didn’t work. “The camera didn’t love you,” Kathleen Turner told Marga Gomez. For all that, Marga Gomez loves Kathleen Turner — “I mock her but I love her. She’s incredible in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ I think she could do anything now. She’s finally found it out — and now she doesn’t have to worry about her looks.”

Pause.

“I guess that goes for all of us.”

Miss Gomez, this is not your papa talking. You do not have to worry about your looks.

Then there’s Sharon Stone, one of the stars — along with Dustin Hoffman and Samuel L. Jackson — of “Sphere,” a big-budget, big-bust Barry Levinson sci-fi movie of 1998. The sphere, a mysterious vehicle from outer space, is lying at the bottom of the sea. Stone, Hoffman, and Jackson are the U.S. Navy scientists. Marga is computer expert Jane Edmunds. Who ever heard of a Latino young woman named Jane Edmunds?

Willy Chevalier (who borrowed his name from Maurice Chevalier) has been dying of cancer all through Marga’s two years in Hollywood. In fact he has died. Now her mother is failing fast in a New York hospital in the week in which Marga — “the first in my family to get a speaking role in a Hollywood movie … my own trailer … my own chair with my name on it” — has to go before the cameras in her big scene, a few lines practiced over and over and over and over:

“Captain, something’s wrong with the sonar! I can’t get a signal! What the hell’s that? I’m going to see if I can’t clear out the transducer ports … ”

She’s even Googled “transducer ports” and found out that a transducer is an electronic device that converts energy from one form to another.

Flies to New York for 24 hours to see her mother. Arrives at the hospital with an armful of margaritas (daisies to you and me) for Margarita. A nurse tells her she’d better stick around for a day or so. “I can’t. I wish I could. I have to fly to California tonight … I understand … I know what her condition is.”

Flies back to California. Picks up a bimbo — well, an aspiring starlet — in a lesbian bar. “She liked my hair, my jacket, my shoes. Things that would seem ordinary if I wasn’t about to star in the biggest science-fiction movie ever … She couldn’t tell I was lying. When she took me home, she thought I came when I was merely grieving.”

On the day of the shoot, the day her mother dies — they’re going to let Marga take the Red Eye that night back to New York for the funeral — she blows everything, her few lines, her big moment, over and over and over again. Kah-blooey! “I was trapped in some sort of Sphere — an acting Sphere — and couldn’t get out.”

Dustin Hoffman, always sensible, always humane, says: “Screw the line, make it your own.”

Samuel L. Jackson says: “Come on, girl. I got shit to do.”

And Sharon Stone says “I know what you’re going through, and all you can do is use it. That’s what I do, if I have a fight with my boyfriend. I bring it into the scene.”

“Yes, it was well-meant,” Marga Gomez says now. “Well-meant but stupid. But she’s a very nice lady … and I’m hot for her. At the preview, my name appeared last in the credits, all alone on the screen. Sharon Stone made the whole row applaud. That was nice. And she pulled my shawl off, to show my shoulders.”

Maybe Sharon Stone had the hots for you?

“Hah! … Hmmmm … Yeah, okay.”

“Los Big Names” is only about those big names incidentally, or inferentially. It is really about Willy Chevalier and Margarita Gomez and the 12 good years they had with their daughter Marga even when Willy and Margarita were trying to kill one another — with a pocketbook in the eye, with hot coffee in the face, with a key in the door — and trying to force that daughter to choose (“CHOOSE!”) between them.

It was only after her father had died that Marga discovered he had sold to a drug dealer the little three-story house at 515 West 169th Street, Manhattan, in which she had spent those 12 first loving years of her life.

What she found when she went back to buy that house, with her thousands in movie money from “Sphere” stuffed in her brassiere — her tetas — would make a whole shoot for another movie. Willy Chevalier will tell you about it in the meantime.
 

LOS BIG NAMES. Written and performed by Marga Gomez. Directed by David Schweizer. A Jonathan Reinis/Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre production though May 14 at the 47th Street Theatre, 304 West 47th Street, (212) 239-6200.


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