BWW Review: LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS at The National
John Leguizamo, as I learned, is modern theatre's most prolific latinx playwright. While 'Latin History for Morons' is not his first play written on the subject of latinx people in America, It certainly seems to take on a presence of its own. The show does not seem as if it is the same ideas showcased in his previous works written into another script. Leguizamo gives his intimate insight into the life of being a latinx person in America who grew up in a rough part of New York and only wants his son to have a better childhood than he had. Throughout the show, Leguizamo uses his relationship with his son to convey how somebody deals with aggressions and microaggressions in their daily life. The show is a history lesson for the audience and serves to inform the audience of a subject matter they may not be privy to.
The main struggle of the play is Leguizamo trying to convince his son not to interpellate and identify with horrible things his bullies at school call him. Leguizamo realizes that the reason his son does not take as much pride in his heritage as he should be is because the textbooks, he is being taught at school have absolutely nothing on latin history. Leguizamo makes it his mission to educate his son on their heritage, and he dives into the history textbooks.
The show's title does not lie, it is a history lesson, he walks into a cluttered classroom (Set design by Rachel Hauck) dressed like your average high school history professor (Clothing design by Luke McDonough) but the show also serves as a commentary on the world we live in today. Throughout the various pantomimes, battle sequences, absurd dance breaks, or impressions of people from his past: Leguizamo slips in humor directed at making the audience apply what he is saying to present times. Though in some moments some of this humor seemed as though it was trying too hard to apply itself to the present, overall most of the humor was poignant as well as funny. Everyone in the audience seemed to be on the same page.
Leguizamo does a good job of filling up the space at The National, one of DC's larger theaters and a lot of this was largely in part of the direction from Tony Taccone. Taccone worked well with Leguizamo, known to be a physical actor, even into his mid 50s is bouncing all over the set using various objects as props, including the chalkboard and the dozens of books he picks off his various interspersed shelves.
I feel that all of the ideas and concepts that Leguizmo talks about and acts out are all socially relevant. I am ashamed to realize that most likely, the audiences who need to see this production the most, are never going to step foot in the theater. That's the harsh reality. The show is a very touching and personal story that anyone should see if they get the opportunity. It runs about 1 hour and 50 minutes with no intermission and runs at The National Theater, November 22, and the Tickets can be purchased at http://thenationaldc.com/events/category/series/john-leguizamo-latin-history-for-morons/