It's been eight years since John Leguizamo's last solo Broadway outing, and Ghetto Klown makes you wonder if he's been writing the entire time. A two-and-a-half-hour autobiographical tour de force, it's an admirable feat for longevity alone. But this sassy, funny showcase contains enough of Leguizamo's keen observations and flamboyant characterizations that it can be forgiven for its self-indulgences.
Leguizamo takes us through his story one decade at a time, beginning with his parents' journey from Colombia to Queens and ending with his own struggles as a husband and father. A video screen broadcasts film clips and photos as the actor-author twists body and voice to play people as colorfully diverse as his parents, wives, mentors and assorted colleagues who've impacted his life.
At the crux of the piece is Leguizamo's conflict with authority, which he traces back to his difficult relationship with his father, who never believed his son would succeed as an actor. That carried over into his work in film and TV, where frustrations with Hollywood pushed him to try to make more out of roles that were often Latino stereotypes, and led to on-set conflicts with costars like Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Kurt Russell and Patrick Swayze.
Eventually, Leguizamo learned from his mistakes and even reconciled with his dad. But before we get to that point Ghetto Klown meanders, taking on a sprawling This Is Your Life quality as Leguizamo recounts his film and stage career and what each experience taught him. "You're like my free therapy," he tells the audience at the beginning of the show, and after a while you might start to feel as if you've been cornered by an incredibly amusing but overly loquacious pal who just can't stop talking about himself.
By Diane Snyder
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