Metaphorically, Marilyn Pittman knows all too well that life is like a garden. Though it can be unpredictable and riddled with weeds, inevitably, a flower still will find a way to grow out of the manure.
The longtime comic — a Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation media award winner and KALW radio host— has made a career out of exploring emotional shadows in life, only to humorously bring them into the light.
But even she’s the first to admit that the subject matter of her new one-woman show, “It’s All the Rage,” onstage at The Marsh in The City, is downright deep, if not unsettling.
“I grew up in a funny family ... and then my dad shot my mom, and then himself,” is one of the lines in the show. “He was a World War II vet, she was a passive-aggressive poet. The ‘greatest generation?’ Nah. Love is deadly. It could happen to you.”
Pittman began writing the heartfelt, humorous romp — it is humorous — in 2007, 10 years after the family tragedy.
“I was driving my wife crazy and she said, ‘You either need to do this show or you need to go to therapy,’” Pittman recalls. “Basically, I had the symptoms of PTSD. So I developed 20 minutes and then walked away from it until 2009, because I wasn’t ready and I had questions.
She says she didn’t want to do the show for therapy reasons.
“I wanted to do it because it was a good artistic project and had good entertainment value,” she adds. “I am an entertainer. I love to make people laugh, so for me, it was difficult to think of doing a show that was so intense; so not about something funny.”
Fortunately, the show was “all the rage” at the United Solo Theatre Fest in New York last year, where it won best one-woman show.
In the the 60-minute soiree, Pittman candidly shares some of her family history as she makes sense of their life and times – and her place in the mix.
“I’ve practiced many years of transforming shadow emotions into comedy,” she says. “That’s what real comics do. They transform the darkness and shadow stuff — fear, rage jealousy, anxiety, doubt — into something we can all collectively laugh at.
“It’s been incredibly cathartic. My wife gets it right when she says, ‘Before you did this show, it owned you. Now, you own it.’”
IF YOU GO
Presented by The Marsh
Where: 1062 Valencia St.,San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays; 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 7 p.m. most Sundays; closes April 15
Tickets: $15 to $50
Contact: (415) 826-5750, www.themarsh.org