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STAGE REVIEW

Making Hollywood a Running Gag

New York-born performer Marga Gomez's hilarious but often belabored one-woman show, 'Jaywalker,' skewers the values, lifestyles of Tinseltown.

September 24, 1998|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Marga Gomez is an outspoken lesbian Latina who has now made a name for herself as a solo performer. Her latest one-woman show, "Jaywalker," through Sunday at Highways, displays her incandescent, sardonic wit to often hilarious effect.

Indeed, when it comes to the offhanded quip, Gomez has few peers. She observes that the perfectly coiffed and telegenic denizens of a Los Angeles lesbian bar look like they are attending "an open call for Spice Girls replacements." New York born and bred, she brings her outsider's sensibility to bear on Hollywood's institutions, commenting dryly, "It was pilot season. There was a carnival atmosphere all over town," then going on to discuss the problem of "pilot season homicides." It seems that certain scheming starlets have a tendency to push the "walk" button before their show business rivals have cleared the crosswalk. It's an effective way of eliminating the competition, one actress at a time.

It's this talent--pushing the ordinary just a half-step higher into the absurd--that is Gomez's strong point. At her best, she is an incisive social commentator, pointing out society's inequities with such deceptive slyness that we do a double take when we finally realize the import of her words. A compact and kinetic bundle of nonstop energy, she riffs wildly on anything and everything as she buzzes along the outskirts of popular culture.

The problem is, in this case, Gomez's digressions don't wander far enough afield. For all its free-associative propulsion, "Jaywalker" is a glorified stand-up routine that occasionally gets bogged down in overblown Hollywood parody. An example is Gomez's running joke about John Tesh's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Whenever she feels that her career is flagging, she runs to "consult" Tesh's star and receive fresh inspiration. But she makes the pilgrimage to that star a few times too often, killing the joke in the process.

Another sequence, in which Gomez undergoes a nightmarish signing ceremony at "T.B.A. (The Big Agency)," is similarly belabored. At times like this, it's apparent that her show could benefit from a strong director, an objective eye to spot and smooth over the rough patches.

Despite the glitches, "Jaywalker" garners big laughs most of the time. At evening's end, when the disgusted Gomez, who has been chewed up and spit out by the Hollywood dream machine, prepares to knock off Parker Posey at a busy intersection, we roar afresh at her outrageousness. Posey, beware! Gomez is in town.

BE THERE

"Jaywalker," Highways, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica. Today through Sunday, 8:30 p.m. $15. (213) 660-8587. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes.

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