Long Island Iced Latina
nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
June 18, 2009
I don't know about you, but I like my summer theatre festivals to be festive. A sense of something special and wonderful should be hanging in the air as we gather to enter the space; a manifestation of an artistic community coming together to celebrate itself and put its best foot forward.
That's exactly what I felt at opening night of TeatroStageFest, the two-week iberoamerican festival that, in its third year in New York City, is offering shows in English, Spanish, and Spanglish—along with a variety of other events such as panels, concerts, and workshops—in three out of five boroughs at prices that make it just about impossible for anyone to have an excuse not to partake. The festival's Producing Executive Director, Susana Tubert, was there to greet audience members on the way in and out, and after the show she welcomed Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre's artistic director Miriam Colon to the stage to chat with the audience.
Oh, and there was a show! Marga Gomez is performing her newest solo piece, Long Island Iced Latina through the end of Teatro's opening week. I've not seen her before on stage—she's a warm, expansive, lively presence, and her show is a pleasing mix of politically incorrect jokes and smart satirical barbs. Gomez remarks at the outset that her performances here in NYC fall between Puerto Rican Pride (which was last Sunday) and Gay Pride (June 28, the last day of the festival); as a Latina lesbian, she's right at home here just now and her show reflects the hard-won and authentic pride she has found for herself, which gives it a lovely uplifting feeling.
The show is loose and informal, a relaxed and occasionally interactive ramble through a variety of subjects; if Jackie Mason were a gay Latina, this would be the show s/he would do. That comparison is carefully made, by the way; Gomez is as indisputably comfortable and in command on stage as Mason is, and like him she blends jokes about her own people with jokes at the expense of others, always based in universals that we all share. In Long Island Iced Latina she talks about such varied topics as the differences between how white people and Latino people point, the reason why Latinos favored Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in last year's primary elections, and how it felt growing up in Washington Heights as a Latina kid who couldn't speak Spanish. Gomez is a great character comedienne, and portraits of her mother, J. Lo., Sonia Santomayor, Diane Sawyer, and a host of anonymous people (like a little Puerto Rican girl in Catholic School trying to sing "I'm Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover") are among the highlights of the show.
Gomez is smart, sassy, and never vulgar. She has great chemistry with her audience; when she blew a line during one of her newer bits of material, she generously acknowledged the gaffe and then re-did the entire scene (flawlessly). She thanks her director David Schweizer at the end of the show, as should we all; the staging, on a simple but tasteful set, is unobtrusive and smooth.
Gomez has three more shows this weekend, and after her performances on June 19 and 20, Bill Santiago's Pardon My Spanglish plays in the same space in the late-night slot. (There's a special discount on tickets to both; check the festival website.) Susana Tubert says on our podcast with her that TeatroStageFest is meant to be a true celebration of Spanish/Latino/Hispanic arts, bringing people of every stripe together in this great diverse metropolis of ours to engage with work from all over the world. Take advantage of this truly festive festival and catch Gomez or some of the other artists who are bringing their work to New York during this great event.