BWW Review: John Leguizamo Is Scathingly Funny in LATIN HISTORY for MORONS
When does a one person show click into high gear? Only when the actor in question is up to it. Such is certainly the case with John Leguizamo in his Latin History for Morons now onstage at the Ahmanson through October 20. Tony winning funnyman Leguizamo is a must see. Why? The minute he takes the stage entering a classroom, he charges into the moment with a fury, stopping the applause, "People, stop! We've got a lot of work to do here and very little time to do it in. I've got to undo your whole education and the entire way you think." Performing like a teacher, he tries his utmost to do away with the theory of Columbus discovering America and make his ancestors, the Tainos, the rightful heirs to this country.
The magic lies in his use of every shred of his wound-up, wired charisma to talk about his family, especially his son Buddy, in the eighth grade at the time of the storyline. Buddy has been bullied and cannot pick a Latin hero to look up to. Leguizamo unlike the father he never had must help him to appreciate who he is, where he came from and to name many Latin heroes worth emulating ...those who have fought in every war and have died to keep this country great. He moves like the wind across the stage, back and forth putting on a crown to essay King Philip II of Spain, changing his voice to play his wife, his daughter, or his therapist. I guarantee, you'll never be bored.
Method actor Leguizamo does not lie. What you get is an energetic, bordering on crazed, no-holds-barred monologue that is recklessly, fearlessly funny, and even if slightly exaggerated, it comes from the heart... it is his truth. He has so much vitality, it feels like a marathon race just to keep up with him. But, if you really tune in keenly, you'll surely enjoy and profit, as you learn so much about the past and how are history books have misguided us.
Yes, his comedy may turn some off as he sounds unduly cruel to Indians (from India), Europeans and Stephen Hawking, but it's all in the game of making you laugh and form an opinion at the same time. He's an agitator...and that can be aggravating.
Nevertheless, there's so much talent to admire. I particularly loved the dancing to the various Latin rhythms through the years. He really gets down and is still in great shape, looking far younger than 55. In the end there is exultation, as he takes pride and joy in attending Buddy's Junior High graduation and to hear him proclaim that his latin hero " is me". Leguizamo ultimately writes for himself and is proud to be who he is...and that his son will hopefully follow in his footsteps
Director Tony Taccone keeps the pacing up, although I'm sure Leguizamo is 99% responsible, and set design by Rachel Hauck, lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols and original sound and music design by Bray Poor are highly functional...but, let's face it, it is Leguizamo you have come to see. You will not be disappointed.
One constructive crticism is the chalkboard. It would be easier to see the writing, names and figures, if what he writes were enlarged on a projection screen above. As is, some of it is most definitely difficult to read.
This is a raw, bold, tell it like it is, let it all hang loose theatrical experience like Leguizamo's Ghetto Klown. What you see from the man on film is a hint of magnetic; onstage ... an explosion of a complexly creative comic genius.
(leave the little ones at home due to foul, obscene language and sexual inuendos)
(photo credit: Matthew Murphy)