Leguizamo's pain has always been our gain through five deeply personal shows, and his new one is no exception. "Ghetto Klown" is filled with hysterical stories..."I realized being on stage is my religion," Leguizamo says at the end. "Sharing my unhappiness on stage is my happiness." Let us hope he is unhappy for a long time to come.
GHETTO KLOWN Broadway Reviews
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At the top of the show, Leguizamo jokes that his story should be a lesson in what not to do. He's wrong. "Ghetto Klown" and his previous works are worthy examples of turning the ups and downs of your life into art.
In "Ghetto Klown," more than in his previous solo Broadway shows ("Freak" and "Sexaholix...a Love Story"), he uses many masks ultimately to reveal a naked self...Director Fisher Stevens has clearly spent a lot of time helping Leguizamo shape what can sometimes be unshapely -- there's a lot of territory to cover, and perhaps 15 minutes too long is spent covering it. But when the inevitable father-son reconciliation comes, the actor takes us way beyond laughter.
The show, which runs about 2 1/2 hours, could be tightened here and there. But as helmed by Fisher Stevens, it makes for a very entertaining, physical and heartfelt piece of theater.
Ghetto Klown is like hitching yourself to the back of a race car: Even if you end up seeing some of the same scenery, it's still a heckuva ride.
Luckily, our host is such a relentlessly entertaining character that it's a real fun trip, seemingly fueled by gallons of Red Bull. Leguizamo enters by pulling hip-hop moves to the sound of James Brown's "Sex Machine," and comes very close to sustaining that frenetic pace for more than two hours, though the energy -- both his and ours -- flags toward the end.
Leguizamo's new play throbs with big laughs and deep poignancy, as well as the infectious Latin beat and manic energy that's become his signature. But it becomes clear that there's a limit to how many times you can go to the same well.
John Leguizamo is a gifted chameleon with -- as he warned in the title of his debut solo 20 years ago -- his own special nonstop mambo mouth. He bounces off anecdotes and observations as a balloon careens around the room until the air is out, except that he never does seem to run out of air, or energy, or the ability to seduce an audience into the contradictory emotions that drive the public revelations of his life. What he does not have, alas, is an editor. "Ghetto Klown," the fifth chapter in what has become a live-onstage autobiography, runs almost 21/2 hours, including intermission. The length would not be an issue, except that his solo has compelling material for a 90-minute treat.
There's a lot of nostalgic content to this fast-moving and efficiently mounted (by Fisher Stevens) piece...less familiar is the tone of disappointment and regret that drags down the second act -- a second act that would be unnecessary if the show gets the trim it needs. Although the performer's fan base might be fascinated to get the gory details on his failed TV show (no mention is made of his short-lived Broadway appearance in "American Buffalo"), much of this material feels like an extension of formal therapy sessions.
While the mysterious sources of Mr. Leguizamo's boundless energy show no signs of imminent depletion, the writing in this, his fifth solo show over the course of two decades, is beginning to show traces of flab. The show's energy stalls when Mr. Leguizamo slides from sharply funny satirical highs to puddles of banal confession...the scabrous class clown begins to feel a little too much like a lecturer at the Learning Annex promoting his latest self-help book.
Leguizamo brings much energy to the proceedings, which is filled with funny one-liners and hilarious impressions of such co-stars as Al Pacino. But the overlong evening begins to wear thin over the course of its two-and-a-half hours. When he goes on at length about his arduous pursuit of the woman he would later marry and then proudly displays pictures of their adorable babies, it’s like running into an old classmate at a high school reunion from whom you can’t wait to tear yourself away.
There's no disputing that Leguizamo knows how to command a stage. His limber physicality and bad-boy charisma, his gift for mimicry and vocal inflection, his effortless ability to inhabit multiple characters, all make him a pro at this type of confessional memoir. He tells a punchy story...But the impression this time around is of a writer-performer going through the motions, falling back somewhat lazily on a format that has worked for him in the past, rather than stretching in new directions.
Devoted fans of John Leguizamo are likeliest to appreciate "Ghetto Klown," his latest solo piece, which opened Tuesday at the Lyceum Theater. As for everybody else, well, witnessing Leguizamo as he talks on and on - and on - for nearly two and a half hours regarding his well-known Latin-Queens roots and his spotty film career and his messy private life turns out to be an increasingly tiresome example of an egocentric actor getting so wrapped up in his lovely self that he forgets to be entertaining.
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