Review: Latin History for Morons Is Entertaining and Laced with Timely Social Commentary
By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, November 16, 2017
Unapologetic, of-the-moment, matured and funny. Just some of the words that come to mind describing John Leguizamo’s sixth one-man stage production, Latin History for Morons, currently running at the iconic Studio 54 in New York City. Leguizamo’s claim to fame began in the 1990s with his successful solo Broadway performances in Ghetto Klown and Freak, as well as Off-Broadway hits, Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama and Sexaholix…A Love Story, winning a number of awards along the way.
Written by Mr. Leguizamo and directed by Tony Taccone, Latin History for Morons is based on Leguizamo’s quest to find a Latin hero for his son’s school project. In doing so, the actor/comedian/playwright takes the audience through 3,000 years of history — from the Aztec empire to Bruno Mars — with Leguizamo’s penchant for character parodies and intertwined dance numbers (Merengue, Cumbia, Tango and even the Irish Jig), in between. What was revealed and strikingly different in this play from his past productions is his genuine sense of frustration and urgency to address the lack of Latin heroes, absent from his childhood history textbooks, with comedic, yet unfortunate truths. “I didn’t have any heroes like captains, or generals from the Civil War growing up. No Latin ones anyway. And where should I have learned that shit? Holla! New York City public school system.” He struggles to come up with a solid reference for his son. And, in the process, learns his son falls victim to bullying and racism in school, parallel to Leguizamo’s own experiences.
Ready to take on the challenge of educating both himself and his son (and the audience) on Latin contributions to history and debunking traditional European historical narrative, Leguizamo embarks on a journey of stats in a classroom setting with props that make his impersonations spot on. A master at accents, he pokes fun at stereotypes and pop culture references (“Columbus was the Donald Trump of the New World”) with phrases like “ancestral PTSD,” as only Leguizamo can — without causing controversy.
Having previously debuted at the Public Theater earlier this year, award-winning producers Nelle Nugent and Kenneth Teaton wanted to ensure a larger audience had the opportunity of seeing this insightful show by bringing it to Broadway. Leguizamo delivers his signature brand of humor, self-deprecation with a newfound responsibility to bring political awareness to the mistreatment of Latino immigrants by the current administration. The 100-minute, intermission-less performance is definitely worth seeing. Middle-age certainly hasn’t slowed Leguizamo down, and his fans will not be disappointed.
Latin History for Morons in a limited engagement at Studio 54 through February 4, 2018. Written by and starring John Leguizamo. Directed by Tony Taccone; scenic design by Rachel Hauck; lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols; original music and sound design by Bray Poor.
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Cover: John Leguizamo in ‘Latin History for Morons;’ photo: Matthew Murphy.