In the program for his new Broadway show, Ghetto Klown, John Leguizamo notes that he's "re-created" some of the events of his life to bring more "clarity" to his story. These kind of liberties are common when adapting real-life events to the stage, yet, in Leguizamo's case, you wind up wondering if he could have done more to clarify his overall point. It's not a question of the comedian's conception but rather the show's execution.There are too just too many tangential stories that aren't central to the protagonist's long journey to acceptance, stardom, and self-assurance that get in the way of the actor's self-reflective moments.
His honesty and forthrightness is commendable - this production is rife with consideration of the relationship between truth and memories - but the show fails to provide much insight into Leguizamo's motivation to remain a Hollywood actor in spite of his own disillusionment and dismay with the state of the industry. If the production were more focused and structured, it could reveal something about the pressures on rising young actors who hope to make inspiring movies and meaningful impact. However, because Klown so often strays, you exit with more questions than answers about Leguizamo's professional career and personal life.
But, boy, is Leguizamo a good performer. He is a skilled dancer, impressive imitator (he does uncanny Seagal, Pacino and De Niro impressions), and storyteller. Leguizamo possesses incredible stage presence that comes across naturally for him. After all, this is his fifth show, and he's received rave reviews for the past ones thanks to his willingness to go all out to describe his childhood, family, and setbacks in great detail.
It takes a lot to keep the audience alert and interested for a two-hour-plus show. Leguizamo captures the audience by keeping moving around the stage; he uses the various props and carefully-crafted set as a playground to make him comfortable to share his secrets with strangers.
Through all the energy that Leguizamo brings to this production, and the well-balanced mix or both comedy and revelations, you wind up wishing or more from the show. At some points, when Leguizamo tells his stories, he is aided by the assistance of prepared sounds to help set the scene. Whether it's a door creaking or a train passing, these sounds help transport the audience to the time and place that Leguizamo wishes. While helpful at times, these sounds prove often to be superfluous since Leguizamo so masterfully revisits those moments with his body language, voices, and miming. It makes me wonder, though, if the comedian lacks trust in his material or his own ability to get his points across.
Nobody can debate Leguizamo's talent. But first he has to be prove he's comfortable with just being himself.