By Eric J. Grimm
Watching John Leguizamo age from the buoyant livewire who gave us the incredible 90s one-man shows, Mambo Mouth, Spic-o-Rama, and Freak to the family man learning how to be a good husband and father in the 2000s sets Sexaholix… A Love Story and Ghetto Klown stirs up the toxic feelings of nostalgia that have gotten us in the mess in which we continue to find ourselves culturally. Leguizamo is still irreverent, for sure, but he’s now a father of teenage children and with that comes some sentimentality that an audience has to accept in order to stick with him. If his work in the 90s was revelatory, the newer stuff simply has to be viewed as an essential part of the whole of a twenty-six-year career that finds Leguizamo thriving and still relevant.
Latin History for Morons, his new show directed by Tony Taccone, proves what we already know to be true, particularly in this national political climate, and demands that we laugh through it. Leguizamo and his children are not safe from racism in seemingly liberal New York City’s private school system.
With this in mind, he clumsily tries to help his struggling if brilliant son bravely stand up to bullies while owning a proud Latin heritage that is largely erased from grade school history texts. He educates his son, himself, and the audience on unsung major figures in American history through the physical comedy that has made him one of the most celebrated comedians of the last thirty years and displays an unsparing political fierceness that feels necessary in comedy right now. If Leguizamo has to grow up, he’ll force the rest of us to grow up with him.
Leguizamo is not always concerned with universal appeal, directing many in-jokes to a Spanish-speaking audience. If American textbooks won’t do the work of building a Latin narrative, Leguizamo doesn’t feel the need to do all the work for those who only speak English.
Photos: Matthew Murphy
Latin History for Morons is playing at Studio 54 through February 25th. For tickets, visit https://latinhistorybroadway.com/.