Of all the roles that actor John Leguizamo plays, his best character may be himself.
In Leguizamo’s one-man play, “Ghetto Klown,” the actor recounts his life growing up in Queens, N.Y., and the vacillating turmoils and successes of his professional life.
With a hyperactive and nearly boundless energy, Leguizamo break dances across the stage and never quits in the 120-minute show.
According to the playbill, Leguizamo is just one of the few Latino actors to break into mainstream Hollywood. Leguizamo’s recollections of the struggles to avoid Latino drug dealer roles highlights his obsession to keep his skin pasty white, at the behest of his grandfather, who tells him to stay out of the sun because only white Latinos get on Telemundo.
Likewise, Leguizamo’s frankness and willingness to go all-out in terms of revealing the true nature of Hollywood big shots is a highlight of the show. For instance, on the set of the film “Executive Decision,” Leguizamo recalls what a bully actor Steven Seagal was even though (spoiler alert) he dies within the first 10 minutes of the movie. Leguizamo ends up being punched in the face for standing up to the stone-faced action star.
From being slapped in the face for 16 takes by Sean Penn on the set of “Casualties of War” to getting in a kerfuffle with Patrick Swayze while they were both dressed as drag queens on the set of “To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar,” Leguizamo provides a fascinating interlude into what really goes on in the world of entertainment, where anything goes.
It becomes clear throughout the show that Leguizamo is an exhibitionist, as he describes the tortured relationship with his disapproving father, which provides brief moments of quietude in this otherwise raucous show.
By intermingling this drama with the overall comedy of the show, Leguizamo showcases his versatility as a serious actor as well as a comedian.
And even as he conveys the failures of his love life, Leguizamo mimics his past lovers with such a nasally perfection that it becomes evident as to why he keeps getting dumped: He’s good at mocking them on stage. Leguizamo’s gift for mimicry and parody is the gift that keeps on giving as he vacillates from playing his hip-waggling mother one moment to a wildly stuttering Al Pacino the next.
Leguizamo’s self-deprecation also strips the show away from the actor’s ego, as he recalls the shortcomings of his career which range from being sued by his own parents for using them as material in his autobiographical plays to being told by his own daughter that comedian George Lopez is funnier than he is.
It is uncommon for an actor to be so unfiltered and candid about the travails of his personal and public life, which makes the audience’s role as voyeur a rare treat. And while Leguizamo is known for his roles in film and television in the mainstream perspective, it is clear that the stage is where the actor shines at his best.
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