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Review Roundup: The Critics Weigh In on John Leguizamo's LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS


Latin History For Morons

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS, written and performed by John Leguizamo, officially opens tonight, November 15, 2017 at Studio 54 (254 West 54th Street). This show is a strictly a limited engagement through Sunday, February 4, 2018.

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS marks Emmy winner John Leguizamo's highly-anticipated return to Broadway, following acclaimed engagements at The Public Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater. Directed by Tony Taccone (Wishful Drinking, Bridge & Tunnel), Latin History For Morons is written and performed by Leguizamo, featuring scenic design by Rachel Hauck, lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols, and original music and sound design by Bray Poor.

In Latin History For Morons John Leguizamo schools his son-and the rest of us-on the buried and forgotten history of Latinos in the Americas in this outrageously funny, satirical one-man play about uncovering the truth, and recovering from the past.

Inspired by the near total absence of Latinos in his son's American history books, Leguizamo embarks on a frenzied search to find a Latin hero for his son's school project. From a mad recap of the Aztec empire to stories of unknown Latin patriots of the Revolutionary War and beyond, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Ricky Ricardo into 95 irreverent and uncensored minutes in his trademark style.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Jesse Green, The New York Times: In the lectures, Mr. Leguizamo comes off as a cross between Howard Zinn and Professor Irwin Corey, drawing impossible pie charts and ribald diagrams on a chalkboard and then acting out a brutal history in ludicrous skits. The physical comedy, often verging on dance, is priceless - "translating thought into action worthy of an Iron Man competition," as Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times in March for his review of the Off Broadway premiere at the Public Theater.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: As Latin History For Morons now moves to Broadway, the play is pretty much as it was downtown with one very noticeable difference; an extremely angry attack on a president who regularly displays ignorance of the people who originally lived on the land on which the United States of America was placed and who seems nonplussed about the continual hardships Americans in Puerto Rico continue to endure after Hurricane Maria.

Matt Windman, amNY: The show (which runs about two hours without an intermission) is a tall order for Leguizamo to fill on his own, with overlapping tracks that include a slow and sentimental multicharacter family drama, stand-up comedy, personal confessions, history, political criticism and even an elaborate dance break. Although one can appreciate the sincerity behind Leguizamo's emphasis on his family, his long-winded attempt to dramatize conversations with his son, wife and daughter falls flat and weighs down the rest of the show, in which he interacts directly with the audience with flare, fervor and ease.

Jeremy Gerard, Deadline: That's one of the few lines I can quote without the use of asterisks, exclamation points and question marks. Even in Spanish the dirty words sound too dirty to repeat. I wish someone would tell him that the famous headline he quotes (I won't give it away here) was in the Daily News, not the Post. There are visual aids, many jokes (Trump, Weinstein and Weiner make cameos) and a sober mission at work, all effectively pushed to the max by director Tony Taccone. If you want the condensed version, listen to Randy Newman's "The Great Nations Of Europe."

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: The Colombian-born monologist-actor keeps up the energy he's known for in past shows such as "Mambo Mouth" and "Ghetto Klown," writing furiously on a blackboard and occasionally breaking into dance. His takes on everyone from Sigmund Freud to Andrew Jackson are righteously funny, if bordering on the obscene, and there are some pointed messages about immigration issues. But attempts to keep things current with passing references to Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey fall flat.

Joe Dziemianowicz, The New York Daily News: That sets the show, directed by Tony Taccone in near-nonstop motion. Leguizamo zips around the stage of Studio 54, where books are stacked and a two-sided blackboard stands ready for a workout. When the chalk dust settles 95 minutes later, Leguizamo has cannily surveyed the Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, plus the role of Hispanic soldiers the Revolutionary War - and a lot more.

Sara Holdren, Vulture: Plenty of plays are tackling issues of system failure, miseducation, and underrepresentation with dogged earnestness. And while the sprightly Latin History for Morons-now playing at Studio 54 in a transfer from its joint premieres at Berkeley Rep and the Public-has its fair share of sincerity, it's also got a leg up on some of its fellow pieces of sociopolitical theater: the unmistakable, irresistible sense of humor of its creator and star.

David Canfield, Entertainment Weekly: There couldn't be a better time, in other words, for Latin History for Morons to get a Broadway upgrade. Leguizamo's one-man show features the performer as a version of himself, revising the way American history is typically taught to elevate the heroes of his own ethnic background, and to give his son the chance to feel pride in where and what he comes from. Leguizamo, who was born in Colombia, has long been a wild stage presence, an actor of enough range to keep an entire theater enraptured through his own musings, impressions, and literal pratfalls. (Previous one-man shows have netted him Obie and Drama Desk awards.) Yet while Latin History doesn't exactly depart from that script - Leguizamo is hardly subdued here - this production is a sobering expression of political urgency that reflects its star's maturation as a Latino public figure.

Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: The history lesson slightly struggles to be the prime object of attention, as Leguizamo's teaching methods emerge as the true star. Morons is the most high-energy and comic history lesson you have ever sat through: a riot of figures, facts, invective, and scrawling on the chalk-board, mashed up with Leguizamo's own passions for sex and dance, and memories of his own life. Leguizamo plays himself and everyone else, from his son to his wife and daughter, to characters like the bully's father and Moctezuma.

Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: Leguizamo talks a lot about bullies, some of whom are explicitly identifiable (and result in suitable reactions from the partisan crowd). The man knows his audience, and his Latin lesson is a treat.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: John Leguizamo's latest solo show is a history lecture delivered by the class clown, with the pleasures and limitations that entails. Dressed in a donnish jacket and vest-at one point, he puffs out his hair and greys it with chalk dust-the charismatic creator of Freak and Sexaholix offers an energetic journey through Latin America's past (dumbed down, he says, for ignorant audiences), with plenty of time set aside for jokes, full-throttle dancing and a narratively convenient plot about helping his bully-beleaguered son defend his identity in a high school project.

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