Review: Marga Gomez’s ‘Pound’ Mocks Depictions of Lesbians on Film


This review by Charles Isherwood appeared in The New York Times.

Marga Gomez spins a comic fantasia on depictions of lesbians in the movies in her new solo show, “Pound,” presented at Dixon Place as part of the theater’s annual “celebration of queer culture.” As she reminds us early on, Ms. Gomez herself once played a lesbian — or so she conceived her character for her three lines of dialogue — in the 1998 film “Sphere.” She and Queen Latifah played characters who worked in an underwater biodome. “Both of our characters are attacked by sea creatures,” she recalls, “and we die in the first 30 minutes because they always kill the lesbians of color first. Also, we should have stayed in the biodome.”

Gently mocking how things have changed, or maybe not, Ms. Gomez adds: “That’s how it was back then for even possibly lesbian characters. Not like today, when lesbian characters lead happy lives in prison.” (The reference, of course, is to the popular Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black.”)

Clad in a plain shirt, black shorts and black boots, Ms. Gomez performs her show, which she wrote and which is directed by David Schweizer, as a sort of live movie script. (“Flashback. Interior. Doctor’s office.”) Her delivery is crisp, brisk and often deadpan, but her big, dark eyes gleam with intensity. Woven through her often very funny descriptions of lesbian-themed movies are Ms. Gomez’s comic tales of her own sexual experience.

That doctor diagnoses her issue as a serious case of celibacy, which is hardly news to Ms. Gomez. “I’m so celibate my legs have been together longer than Aerosmith,” she cracks later on. But when she tries to remedy this situation by going online, the woman she connects with, bearing the screen name Sadgirl2, who shares Ms. Gomez’s love of the Gina Gershon-Jennifer Tilly movie “Bound,” rebuffs her because she has heard that Ms. Gomez is a womanizer. A celibate womanizer seems a contradiction in terms, but Ms. Gomez’s show doesn’t stick closely to reality.

In fact the two themes, of Ms. Gomez trying to cure her supposed celibacy, and her personalized history of lesbian cinema, collide about halfway through the 90-minute show with a leap into surrealism. At a movie theater with her gay cousin Mikey (seeing “The Kids Are All Right”), she follows a woman into the bathroom and disappears through this stranger’s “vaginal portal” into a fantasy world populated by all the characters she’s been telling us about.

There’s Catherine Tramell, the possible ice-pick-wielding bisexual murderer played by Sharon Stone in “Basic Instinct.” Ms. Gomez also runs into Childie, the waiflike lover of a British soap opera star from “The Killing of Sister George.” And she tries in vain to urge Jill, Sandy Dennis’s character from “The Fox,” to flee the farm where she raises chickens because Ms. Gomez knows how the movie ends: with poor Jill’s being killed when a tree falls on her. Playing hostess to Ms. Gomez’s visit to the cinematic carnival is Cristal Connors, the predatory character played by Ms. Gershon in “Showgirls.”

Ms. Gomez isn’t a virtuosic mimic, but she flits easily between characters from the movies and her own persona, which is exuberantly brash and exuberantly frank (detailed digressions on female anatomy are included). Some of the film-spoof sequences are funnier than others, and you would definitely benefit from having seen the works invoked.

These also include “Notes on a Scandal” and “The Children’s Hour,” the movie adapted from a Lillian Hellman play about two schoolteachers whose lives are destroyed by whispered rumors about their relationship. In one of the funnier fantasy bits, the young girl who spread the rumors tells Ms. Gomez: “Everybody thinks I have lesbian tendencies, and that’s why I told those whoppers about Miss Wright and Miss Dobie. But I’m a normal, natural homophobic child.” (Less rewarding for me was the section featuring characters from “Bound,” which I never saw.) Although Ms. Gomez doesn’t press the point home, the takeaway on the subject of lesbians on film is that they generally don’t live happily ever after.

The fantasy sequence more or less evaporates as Ms. Gomez suddenly returns from the “cloud” without apparently having found another “vaginal portal” to escape through. But then, “Pound” — presumably a riff on Ms. Gomez’s beloved “Bound” — feels more like a night at a comedy club than a straightforward autobiographical solo show. It’s a hilariously skewed queer-film studies course crossed with a standup act.

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