Sexaholix… a love story

John Leguizamo
John Leguizamo

John Leguizamo is ready to party. Dressed in a black leather jacket, blue jeans, and a white tank top that leaves his belly button exposed, the solo performer oozes self-confidence and sex appeal. He claims that he wrote his latest show, Sexaholix… a love story, in order to get out of the house and escape his responsibilities as a father of two, but that claim seems disingenuous. If anything, the show demonstrates just what a good parent he can be.

True, he’s not the most obvious choice for father of the year. When his daughter by his current girlfriend asks him if girls can be bastards, his reply is: “Now, you know I love your mother too much to marry her.” He’s been through that before, and his own divorce and his parents’ divorce have convinced him that marriage is not the be-all and end-all of life.

This autobiographical performance examines, in detail, Leguizamo’s relationships with his parents, his lovers, his friends, and his children. It isn’t a retread of his last solo show, Freak; it’s lighter in tone and seems closer in style to stand-up comedy. There’s no set to speak of — a microphone stand, two stools, and strings of red light bulbs are the only things on the stage aside from the performer himself. Kevin Adams’ lighting design helps to set the mood and ease transitions. Other than that, it’s up to Leguizamo and director Peter Askin to make the two-act show flow smoothly.

The author-star seems determined to pack as many jokes as possible into Sexaholix but he also ventures into deeply felt emotional territory. His account of the death and funeral of his grandfather manages to be both funny and extremely touching at the same time. This ability to move quickly from heartfelt tales of personal tragedy and loss to moments of utter hilarity is what makes the experience of watching Leguizamo so rewarding. He is not afraid to make himself the butt of several jokes, including ones that display him in an unflattering light. Although it should be kept in mind that the author gives a fictional spin to a good deal of his material, the performance gives the impression of authenticity. Certain names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not-so-innocent, but the emotional honesty of the performance shines through.

Leguizamo’s dancing and physical comedy skills show no visible trace of the leg injury he sustained last month. A darkly humorous account of his mother beating him is performed to a hip-hop rhythm with funky choreography that belies the seriousness of the situation. At other moments, he utilizes various dance moves to convey different characters and emotional situations.

The show’s title references the gang name that Leguizamo and his friends came up with for themselves when they were lonely, horny teenagers. These friends — nicknamed Fucks Funny, Xerox, and English — have remained close to Leguizamo over the years, appearing at various points in his stories. However, they are the least developed characters in the script. The audience gets no sense of who these men are and why they mean so much to the writer-performer; they remain flat, one-dimensional caricatures. More pertinent to the content of the performance is the show’s subtitle, “a love story.” The persona John Leguizamo creates for himself is of an emotionally stunted man, afraid to say “I love you,” who learns to grow up and truly commit himself to a woman and to his children. Thankfully, Leguizamo manages to avoid most of the pitfalls that would make this message come across as saccharine or hopelessly clichéd.

Sexaholix shows off the star’s easy rapport with the audience: He feeds off of their energy and gives it right back to them. Leguizamo is liable to break out of the story he’s telling in order to greet latecomers or comment on someone’s distinctive laughter. It’s obvious that he’s really enjoying himself up there on stage.

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Sexaholix…a love story

Closed: December 7, 2003