John once again displays his impressive range as an actor, deftly transitioning from outrageous comedy to gutwrenching drama. He plays the titular clown with ease, then explodes with pent-up anger, then reveals a surprisingly heartwarming sensitive side. He manages to bring out both the laughs and the tears while running around the stage full of energy, showcasing yet another skill between scenes -- as a frenetic dancer. His true talent, however, lies in his words. John Leguizamo is a fantastic writer.
Best known for his movie roles, Leguizamo's greatest legacy might be the string of one-man shows he has written and presented -- Off-Broadway's Mambo Mouth and Spic-o-Rama, and Freak and Sexaholic on Broadway. Ghetto Klown is another crowd pleaser. Like his past productions, it is very autobiographical, unflinching in its depiction of his family and friends, as well as some of the celebrities he has encountered in his career. He also doesn't shy away from showing his own shortcomings, but the heart of the play is seeing how after each fall he raised himself up to new heights. Leguizamo admits that "while based on truth, events within the play have been re-created for clarity. Some moments in the piece fall out of their original timeline to create a more streamlined narrative." Despite any creative license he may have taken, the story and characters ring completely true, and the emotions are genuine.
He does a great job impersonating Al Pacino, Steven Seagal, Baz Luhrmann, and other Hollywood personalities. He also fleshes out other characters -- girlfriends, childhood buddies, agents, and family members. His depiction of his grandfather, for example, is so wonderful, I could watch an entire play based on him alone.
The play tells the tale of Leguizamo's life and career. As a fan of a lot of his performances, it was great to hear and see "behind-the-curtain" tidbits from Carlito's Way, To Wong Foo, and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet.
The only negative comment I can make about the show is that Act Two left me wanting to hear even more, such as his experiences working with Spike Lee on Summer of Sam or dressed as a fat, evil clown in Spawn. I guess the positive way to look at it is that he has a lot of good material left over for yet another great one-man show down the road!
Ghetto Klown isn't just a stand-up comedy routine, it's a real theatrical story. The production values are excellent, with a terrific set, eye-catching video projections, and perfect sound effects.
Ghetto Klown closes on July 10, so get your tickets now!