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Wednesday, 30 March 2011 23:36

Broadway Review: GHETTO KLOWN

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John Leguizamo in GHETTO KLOWN John Leguizamo in GHETTO KLOWN Photo: Carol Rosegg
John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown, like his previous shows, is a ride through the mind of a gifted, creative man told by a master story-teller.  Leguizamo draws on what he knows, his family, his neighborhood, his sex life and now his career and love life.  He's been a role model to the Latino community as he fought to break away from traditional Hollywood thug roles by writing his own material.  This is Leguizamo’s fifth show, his third on Broadway.

He is a masterful mimic (mostly). He mimics his mother, father, high-school teacher, every girlfriend he ever had, his best friend Rayray and his hilarious manager and his manager’s coke-sniffing son (Irving Resnick and Son, “Two for the price of one.”)  He also does his grandfather, who reminds him that “only white Latinos make it to Telemundo.”  His impersonations of Al Pacino, Brian Dipalma, and Robert De Niro are spot on.  His Foghorn Leghorn and Patrick Swayze on the other end, not so much.

His career got off to an auspicious start with breaking into a subway car booth to do his “act” on the train’s public address system.  It promptly got him arrested.  Nowhere to go but up, right?   Leguizamo's career has not been without its ups and downs.  He became the first Latino man on Broadway with a one-man show that got two Tony nominations.  Unfortunately, as he put it, he was up against the “Golden Girls,” Bea Arthur and Elaine Stritch (each up for their own respective one-woman show, he lost to Stritch.)  In 1995 he also had a short-lived television show for Fox "The House of Buggin'"  After ten episodes the network kept Leguizamo's writers and creative team only to throw out all the Latino faces out front of the camera and rename the show “Mad TV.”

Leguizamo details his love-life: there was Kat, the 6 foot 2 “Lexus of women” who he met in an acting class, they were “starving artists living on sardines”; his first wife Lissette, a poetess; and finally Teeny, a costumer on “Carlito’s Way,” who becomes his second and current wife.  

One of the appealing things about John Leguizamo is he is a macho, guy’s guy who has no hang-ups about revealing his more vulnerable, softer side (or dressing up as a woman for a movie for that matter).  After having sex with Teeny the first time, they share some intimate cuddling during which they each reveal personal feelings to one another.  She reveals she “never felt worthy of being loved” and he reveals that since he and his Pops have been on the outs, he has felt like “the sun had been extinguished.”  She falls asleep in his arms... and he leaves.    A bone-headed move.  The next day she quits the film and he has to go out of his way to win her back.  Most straight guys wouldn’t be caught dead talking about the lengths they had to degrade themselves to win back a woman after a stupid move like that.  Leguizamo acts it out eight times a week in front of nine-hundred plus people.  

With Ghetto Klown Leguizamo delves into his bouts with depression, a recurring theme that he says left him sleeping too much, drinking too much, disgusted with himself and then beating off too much, "I can't leave the house cause I repulse myself” says Leguizamo as video footage of him tossing around in bed, satisfying himself and staring hauntingly through a crack in the curtain of a picture window plays over-head.  He’s incredibly honest in this piece.  He admits that to him this is therapy.  And how could it not be?  He wears his relationships on his sleeve: his love for Teeny; his agony over his relationship with his father; and his admiration for Tweety (his first acting teacher, an elderly woman who he also mimics). Writing this down in the first place is probably the real therapy.

Actor and Academy Award winning director Fisher Stevens has directed Ghetto Klown, though directing John Leguizamo sounds something akin to herding kittens.

In his usual fashion, Leguizamo’s dialogue is rapid-fire and interlaced with Latin music that sets him dancing between sequences.  The energy that he expends during the two hours and ten minutes is exhausting to watch but damn impressive and he’s funny as hell.  

Additional Info

  • Theatre: The Lyceum Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 149 West 45th St. New York, NY 10036
  • Show Style: Play
  • Previews:: February 21, 2011
  • Opening Night: March 22, 2011
  • Closing: July 10, 2011
Last modified on Thursday, 31 March 2011 00:04

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