There are a few things Maureen Langan does not endorse when it comes to achieving fame. They include, yet are not limited to the following, in no particular order:
Making a sex tape.
Being a prick on a “reality” show.
Other than that, all good.
“I don’t want this person running the country and that person getting a book deal,” said Langan. “I studied English and know the proper usage of semicolons, so it makes my head explode.”
Langan is currently in a return engagement of her one-woman show “Daughter of a Garbage Man” at the Marsh in San Francisco, a piece that debuted internationally in Edinburgh back in 2016. That debut was followed by a six-month run at the Marsh, where it was universally praised by critics and audiences alike.
In the show, Langan shares both the joyful and painful stories of her upbringing in Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey, a city that does not have a lake. She speaks candidly about the lessons learned from her Irish-born mother and blue collar father, a couple who raised their six kids to work hard, get an education and make something of themselves.
It’s also the story of family struggles. Langan, a stand-up comedian and journalist who grew up in a house where alcoholism and secrets were a large part of the daily family dynamic, is candid about how that shaped her as a child. In the show, which covers lots of ground in 90 uninterrupted minutes, she clearly states that the audience will get “the fun, the heart and the smart,” and is thrilled at the depth the solo performance medium provides.
“Part of what is happening is that I’ve done stand-up for so long, and I’ve found that having emotional depth and seriousness is not solely for stand up, but (with solo shows), there are layers to discuss other things,” said Langan. “The show is mostly funny but very poignant – you laugh a lot but will shed a tear or two.
“This show is a bridge into who my parents are.”
Those parents pushed all their children to work hard. Langan describes her mother as a “smart woman from Ireland,” one who understood struggle and saw education as a pathway into greater successes. And while Langan certainly heeded that advice, carving out a long career in multiple entertainment mediums and getting a college degree that created a pathway for her siblings to follow, she still feels the frustration as to how society values and rewards the wrong things.
“What is now getting rewarded? What is happening to values, what is going on? I have no problem with (how people gain their fame), but I want other things to be rewarded in addition to that.
“If you want to make a sex tape, go ahead. But why is that so much more highly rewarded than teachers? It is so not proportionate.”
While Langan’s parents and their successes are a huge part of the show, she is open about their struggles as well. In particular, playing her mother loads her with emotion.
“My mother kept things under wraps which really framed how she treated me, and at times it was very harsh. At the time I didn’t understand, but as I got older and I saw who she was meant to be, it was so touching and emotional, and I go there in the show and really feel it.”
Another difficult task is when Langan has to play herself as a young teen, because it speaks of a time she does not recollect fondly.
“I was 13 or 14 and very sick in the hospital, and I was so alone. An alcoholic family doesn’t share secrets, which is one of the themes of the show, and when I was that age I didn’t make the connection that being physically ill was connected to the craziness around you.”
The show, with all its conversations about real things that affect many families, is loaded with humor. And certainly, she wants plenty of people to come and share in the trials and tribulations of their own situations through the portrayal of her own family.
But there is one group she doesn’t want anywhere near the show – her own family.
“No, they’d have to leave, no, no, they can’t,” said Langan, flustered at the mere thought. “Up in the front of the theatre, I don’t want to know anyone. Everyone has a different reality, and for me to do it in front of them and take the chance for them not to see it my way, I don’t want the judgement or correction.”
Langan now spends her time between New York City and San Francisco. She can also be heard Sunday nights on KGO Radio with her show “Hangin’ with Langan.” And she certainly hasn’t ruled out taking her play elsewhere in the future, maybe in her other home in the Big Apple. Because wherever the show goes, there is something about it that does not change.
“It is not a story about, oh poor me,” said Langan. “It’s a story about families and people trying to do the right thing.”
WHAT TO KNOW IF YOU GO
The Marsh San Francisco presents “Daughter of a Garbage Man”
Written and performed by Maureen Langan
Directed by David Ford
Fridays at 8 pm
Saturdays at 5 pm
Through April 28th
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Tickets range from $20 – $100
For tickets, call (415) 282-3055 or visit the Marsh website