×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Off Broadway Review: John Leguizamo’s ‘Latin History for Morons’

With:
John Leguizamo.

It’s never too late to be educated, especially when it’s as entertaining and personal as John Leguizamo’s class in culture, comedy and parenting in his latest solo show at The Public, following a run last year at Berkeley Repertory Theater. In “Latin History for Morons,” an older and more mature Leguizamo — well, older, anyway, at 52 — is in autodidact mode in this sometimes hilarious, sometimes tender-hearted Ted Talk with props, dancing (he’s still got the moves) and a well-used blackboard.

The show’s story arc traces Leguizamo’s dilemma as a supportive yet clueless parent when his teenage son is faced with the belittling of his heritage by a school bully who brags about his ancestors while Leguizamo’s son is at a loss to point to his. His son, whom he endearingly calls “Buddy,” goes into a tailspin when faced with a middle school research assignment to write about a hero, something in which dad is all too happy to help — with mixed results.

It also sets Leguizamo on his own personal journey, confronted by his own ignorance of Latin history that for him begins with the Mayans and then flatlines until the age of rapper Pitbull. So dad hits the books and internet to fill in the history that was denied him in school.

With increasing manic obsession, he shares these revelations with his son — and us — using plenty of data and details he discovers, and then puts his own comic spin on it all. One of the most startling facts is his realization of the amount of Native American DNA in most Latins, including his own Colombian and Puerto Rican ancestry.

But its Leguizamo’s charismatic storytelling gifts about his own family that make it personal, funny and endearing. The lecture would engage the sleepiest of students — or theatergoers. Even when his digressions have digressions, he’s still able to engage his audience — or at least keep the narrative ball in play — until the focus of his instructional stand-up re-focuses back to the father-son story.

Staged with playful inventiveness by Berkeley Rep artistic director Tony Taccone and a set by Rachel Hauck that is evocative but doesn’t distract, Leguizamo is again a whirlwind of energy, temper and wicked charm. He’s difficult not to like, even when some of his impersonations may produce a wince and an observation or two feels re-purposed.

There’s an endearingly introspective side to him as he grapples with his own inability to connect to his son, feeling that he is making things worse in his effort to make things better. His son sees Leguizamo’s enthusiastic heritage discoveries as being on the losing, expendable and depressing side of history.

The writer of such dynamic pieces as “Freak,” “Sexaholix” and “Ghetto Klown,” Leguizamo shows a sweet side in his parental resilience and aching desperation to connect to a son whom he feels is drifting away. In his latest cultural probe of identity, class and heritage the teacher becomes the student, learning that sometimes son knows best.

Off Broadway Review: John Leguizamo's 'Latin History for Morons'

The Public Theater’s Anspacher Theater; 275 seats; $95 top. Opened March 26, 2017. Reviewed March 25. Plays through April 23. Running time: ONE HOUR 40 MINS.

Production: The Public Theater and Berkeley Repertory Theater co-presentation of a play in one act by John Leguizamo.

Creative: Directed by Tony Taccone; sets, Rachel Hauck; lighting, Alexander V. Nichols; original music and sound, Bray Poor; production stage manager, Lisa Iacucci; stage manager, Aaron Gonzalez.

Cast: John Leguizamo.

More Legit

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

  • All About Eve review

    West End Review: Gillian Anderson and Lily James in 'All About Eve'

    To adapt a crass old adage: it’s “All About Eve,” not “All About Steve.” Stripping Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s sharp-witted screenplay about a waning theater star of its period trappings, Ivo van Hove’s stage adaptation fine-tunes its feminism for our own sexist age — image-obsessed, anti-aging, the time of Time’s Up. Rather than blaming Lily James’ [...]

  • Adam Shankman

    Listen: Why Adam Shankman Directs Every Movie Like It's a Musical

    Director Adam Shankman’s latest movie, the Taraji P. Henson comedy “What Men Want,” isn’t a musical. But as one of Hollywood’s top director-choreographers of musicals and musical sequences, he approaches even non-musicals with a sense of tempo. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “When I read a script, it processes in my head like a [...]

  • Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella' Review

    L.A. Theater Review: Matthew Bourne's 'Cinderella'

    How much can you change “Cinderella” before it is no longer “Cinderella”? In the case of choreography maestro Matthew Bourne — who, it should be said, first unveiled his spin on the classic folk tale some 22 years ago — the music is most certainly “Cinderella” (Prokofiev’s 1945 score, to be exact), but the plot [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content