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Ghetto Klown

John Leguizamo returns to Broadway in an entertaining and energetic solo that tracks the trajectory of his showbiz career. logo
John Leguizamo in Ghetto Klown
(© Carol Rosegg)
"I love spilling my guts out to you all; you're like my free therapy," says John Leguizamo to the audience early on in his autobiographically-based solo, Ghetto Klown, now playing Broadway's Lyceum Theatre under Fisher Stevens' direction. But while the writer/performer may benefit from sharing his personal stories with strangers, theatergoers are also getting their money's worth in this entertaining and energetic show.

This latest in a string of one-man plays from Leguizamo tracks the trajectory of his showbiz career, as he tells stories about clowning around as a kid to entertain his friends; performing Off-Off-Broadway with his then-girlfriend Kat; writing and performing his own work; breaking into TV and film; and working in Hollywood alongside numerous A-list stars.

However, this is not simply a description of the actor's greatest hits, as Leguizamo also weaves in deeply personal and frequently hilarious anecdotes about his interactions with friends and family. Of particular note are his tales about his father, his grandfather, his first wife, his current wife, and his childhood best friend, Ray Ray.

Those familiar with Leguizamo's oeuvre will immediately notice that he plays fast and loose with the chronology of when he performed shows like Freak and Sexaholix on Broadway, and when he appeared in films like Carlito's Way and To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Presumably, he's done this so as to more sharply define the journey he's taking the audience on, but it also causes us to question how much of his stories we should take at face value.

Certainly, Leguizamo has exaggerated and possibly even made up certain incidents (I don't for a minute believe his audition for Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet went as he describes), but he obviously wants us to believe his tales, even rolling out film clips from some of his works to illustrate his points. And ultimately, the "true or not" discussion ceases to make a difference as it's possible to simply revel in Leguizamo's virtuosic storytelling ability, which can be laugh out loud funny one moment, and then switch gears to be profoundly touching in the next breath.

A highly kinetic performer, Leguizamo frequently breaks into dances and morphs into the various characters he portrays with an unerring knack for shifting his physical and vocal characteristics to comically (and sometimes even seriously) capture the essence of who he's portraying. This includes numerous celebrities he's worked with, such as Al Pacino, Patrick Swayze, Kurt Russell, and Steven Seagal. And while some of these depictions may be a trifle unkind, they're also pretty darn funny.

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