Marga Gomez remembers the 1970s as a time of experimentation and liberation.
"Everyone thought they were Salvador Dali, and you could fall in love every five minutes," she said. "Then you had Reagan and AIDS."
On the phone from Los Angeles, where she took an impromptu trip after the opening weekend of "Lovebirds," her latest solo show at the Marsh, Gomez says she wanted the audience to get caught up in that feeling of freedom and exploration.
In interconnecting stories, we meet a cabaret owner, Orestes, in love with a singer who can't sing. The singer has a husband who claims (through yawns) to only need 45 minutes of sleep a night.
This play has a very personal connection to Gomez -- the characters are based on people she knew.
"One of the characters is modeled on my dad who had a crush on a singer who wasn't good," she said. "She had a husband who said he didn't need to sleep, and so he was always so out of it, and he couldn't see my dad was trying to steal his wife."
And the play's origins come from a day when she was feeling low; Gomez happened to run into into Stephanie Weisman, the founder and artistic director of the Marsh, and Weisman suggested she do another show. According to Gomez, she started thinking about about the time when her father was pursuing the off-key singer, as well as remembered her own romantic history -- Gomez started going to a lesbian bar in New York, Bonnie and Clyde's, that her high school drama teacher had told her about.
At that bar, she met a woman, nicknamed Turkey (for eating a whole turkey) who also appears in "Lovebirds." The real Turkey kissed her in front of her house at three in the morning, Gomez said, and her father, uncharacteristically waiting up for her, ran out of the house, and asked her, "Who's that guy?"
In "Lovebirds," Turkey is besotted with Barbara, an earnest women's studies major, and Orestes' daughter. Barbara (who has renamed herself Dahlia, thinking there are too many lesbians named Barbara), is Orestes' daughter.
Narrating the show is Polaroid Phillie, who's convinced digital photography is a fad, and takes pictures of all these characters.
She's also based on a real person, Gomez says -- a photographer who hung out both at her father's place and the gay bar, making Gomez nervous by documenting both of these worlds she was in.
"This lady was very glum, not friendly like Phillie," Gomez said. "She wore a ratty old winter coat, but one time I saw her get into a Cadillac, and I thought, 'Well, everybody's drunk when they pay for pictures and drunk when they tip her.'"
The set has stacks of shoe boxes that Phillie keeps her photos in.
"It sort of suggest a disco -- with the corners and edges it's like a prism," Gomez said. "I'd never had a set before, but this show needed some sort of whimsy."
On "Lovebirds," Gomez worked with her long-time director, David Schweizer.
"David does things on a grand scale -- he's very much into presentation, but he pretty much leaves me alone as far as how I perform," Gomez said. "With my writing, he asks questions to make sure everyone understands what's going on- sometimes I forget the audience isn't in my head. But I never studied acting, and I don't know the terms, so if anyone said to me, 'Feel the orange in your hand' or something, I'd fall apart."
People have told her the last part of the show, where she performs as herself and refers to romantic troubles she's been through are very touching, but she wants to keep it fairly light, according to Gomez.
"I want it to be delightful," she said. "Love isn't exclusive to people in relationships. Some people hit the lottery in love, but even if you don't, there's a lot of us, and we have each other."
"Lovebirds" plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays at the Marsh (1062 Valencia), through March 15. Tickets are $15-$35. For more information, call
282-3055, or go to www.themarsh.org.