Latin History for Morons
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Theater review by Adam Feldman
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.
Leguizamo makes two bold choices in his presentation of the material in Latin History for Morons, which was mounted earlier this year at the Public Theater. The first is to essentially conflate Latin American and Native American identities; the second is to focus largely on instances of infighting, failure and defeat, in keeping with his own persona as a yappy underdog. The history he offers is often junky—his queeny version of Moctezuma II, for example, minces and vogues as he betrays the Aztecs—but rigor is hardly his goal. At the risk of “compliment-sulting” him in the style of his Latin mom: The show’s shortcomings are part of its message and, in a way, its appeal.
Studio 54 (Broadway). By John Leguizamo. Directed by Tony Taccone. With Leguizamo. Running time: 1hr 50mins. No intermission. Through Feb 25.