Latin History for Morons

‘LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS’: John Leguizamo. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS
Written by & starring John Leguizamo
Directed by Tony Taccone
Through February 25, 2018
Studio 54
254 West 54th Street
212-390-5983, www.latinhistorybroadway.com

 

By Scott Harrah

Funnyman John Leguizamo is a master at solo performances, as anyone who saw his previous one-man Broadway efforts Freak and Ghetto Klown can attest. Mr. Leguizamo has always hilariously mined material from his Hispanic heritage and streetwise New York roots, but here he takes the focus off himself (well, sort of) by talking about his bullied teenage son’s quest to find a Latino hero from history for a school project. Although Mr. Leguizamo covers much of the same territory he did in past shows, his statements about the “whitewashing” of U.S. and North American history ring with veracity in the xenophobic, anti-immigrant political environment in which we currently live.

The 95-minute monologue centers on Mr. Leguizamo giving a laugh-inducing lecture on how white Europeans, from Christopher Columbus to the Spanish Conquistadors and our own American founding fathers, skewed history through the decades to marginalize, overlook or flat out omit facts about the native people in the Americas, from the Native Americans in the USA and Canada to the Aztecs of Mexico, the Taino people of the Caribbean and the Incas of South America. As Mr. Leguizamo says, Hispanics have more Native American blood than Spanish or anything else, adding, “And we’re also 25% white, 25% Jewish, 25% Lebanese and 25% I don’t know what the f**k!”

Using Rachel Hauck’s minimal set, with not much more than a classroom blackboard, Mr. Leguizamo is an amusing mad professor, talking about how Hispanics fought in the American Revolutionary War and in the Civil War. He traces Latino people from the ancient Mayans all the way to up to what we have now, Pitbull.

There are many hysterical lines about how the European imperialists destroyed the indigenous peoples of the New World, particularly the Conquistadors with their many diseases and ravenous sexual appetites. The Spaniards, he says, were such predators of the native women of early Latin America that the guys were “like NBA players at a Kardashian pool party.”

Mr. Leguizamo also pokes fun at his Jewish wife and includes his trademark lampooning of his boyhood New York street life.

Besides the crisp writing, Mr. Leguizamo is most enjoyable when he’s imitating everything from friends and relatives to famous folks like Stephen Hawking and “Project Runway” host Tim Gunn. His portrayal of Montezuma as a fey, campy gay man perhaps comes across too much like his character Chi Chi Rodriguez in the drag-queen road movie To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, but he has so much fun (as does the audience) that it doesn’t matter.

Granted, not everything works here, as some of the talks with his wife and son become tiresome, but director Tony Taccone allows Mr. Leguizamo free rein to do what he does best: Satirize history while bringing colorful characters to life with energy, wit and enthusiasm, making us all laugh about the delicate and controversial topic of diversity while showcasing the absurdity of bigotry and ignorance in American society.

 

 

Edited by Scott Harrah
Published November 20, 2017
Reviewed at November 19, 2017 press performance.

 

 

Latin History for Morons

‘LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS’: John Leguizamo. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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