Ghetto Klown

  • Our critic's rating:
    March 1, 2011
    Review by:
    Tulis McCall

    Review by Tulis McCall

    At the top of this show John Leguizamo tells us this is a cautionary tale about almost giving up on his dream of performing. During the next two hours there is little that is cautionary, and while he does perform, he plays himself and the people who have walked with him. This is an old fashioned vanity piece whose conclusion is foregone.

    Leguizamo spins the tale of the theatre stripes he has earned, and they are many. We meet his first acting teacher, Sylvia Myrtle and witness his blossoming passion for the stage. We walk through is early television and film work – he got slapped by Sean Penn so many times he could hardly speak and is the only person in movie history to kill Al Pacino. We see him learning that he has a voice and discovering how to use it. We walk briefly through his previous stage shows, Mambo-Mouth, Spic-O-Rama, and Sexaholix, and Freak. All of these came out of despair and the writing each bout provoked. We hear the old stories of his father’s cruelty and his mother’s devotion, his best friend Ray-Ray, his grandfather who never failed him. We get both marriages and the two kids.

    In other words we get a series of events that lead us to the present, all told with great skill but little drama.

    The most pertinent moments are when he takes a stand. He labels various maps on his journey. Miami is “God’s waiting Room”; Queens is the “scrotum to Manhattan”; Thailand is the VD Capital of the World”. And shameful is the reminder that when he showed up for auditions as a drug dealer, because he is Hispanic, he joined the likes of Benjamin Bratt, Javier Bardim and Benicio del Toro – only to be called back the next day with the same group of actors to audition for a janitor.

    Indeed if there is drama here it is Leguizamo’s hand over fist climb up the professional ladder as a writer, performer, and producer. (And the enthusiastic audience is loaded with fans that have come to say thank you in person.) The fact that our theatre community continues to ignore most everyone except white males is as shocking as it is embarrassing. That Leguizamo shines a light on this continually overlooked failing is to be applauded. That is the Leguizamo I want to hear from. Unfortunately he takes a back seat to Mr. Sentimental in this piece.

    Leguizamo is a terrific story-teller. But Ghetto Klown has little oomph and no bite. It is just the story of his life, and I have heard more compelling scenarios on NPR’s StoryCorps series.

    Bring back the scalpel, the laser and the dissecting shears, John. We still need you.

    (Tulis McCall)

    "While the mysterious sources of Mr. Leguizamo’s boundless energy show no signs of imminent depletion, the writing in this, his fifth solo show over the course of two decades, is beginning to show traces of flab."
    Charles Isherwood for New York Times

    "Leguizamo is one wildy entertaining guy."
    Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News

    "Such a relentlessly entertaining character that it's a real fun trip."
    Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post

    "Leguizamo’s ferociously funny new Broadway show."
    Jeremy Gerald for Bloomberg

    "Entertaining and insightful examination of the star-author's relationship with his family, lovers, and career."
    David Sheward for Back Stage

    "He hasn't lost his talent, but some fresh material might do wonders for his effectiveness."
    Robert Feldberg for The Record

    "Increasingly tiresome example of an egocentric actor."
    Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey

    "Smacks of self-indulgent recycling."
    David Rooney for Hollywood Reporter

    "Entertaining.., but nonetheless too long, too defensive and too familiar."
    Marilyn Stasio for Variety

    External links to full reviews from popular press...

    New York Times - New York Daily News - New York Post - Bloomberg - Back Stage - The Record - Newsroom Jersey - Hollywood Reporter - Variety