Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
John Leguizamo bounces about the stage and looks out to audience and says, "You are all morons about the history of the Latin race." He then goes into that history, starting with the Aztecs and the Mayans who originated the Latino race. The premise is that his 10-year-old son was watching a western film on television and he was identifying with the villain. The boy had an affected self-hatred since a bully at his school called him a Latino.
There is a huge blackboard onstage where Leguizamo scribbles nearly garbled notes during the 90-minute, no-intermission act. He talks about the Maya civilization around 1000 B.C. and also re-enacts the conquest of the Mayans and the Incas marvelously. He talks about the Aztecs and Montezuma and Cortés (referring to them as "gay lovers"), then continues the timeline through American history, telling about forgotten patriots in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. He talks about Loreta Velázquez, a Cuban American who disguised herself as a man to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War.
John Leguizamo is all dynamism. There are times when he becomes repetitive, yet he is a vigorous, energetic artist. He does tend to ramble on and on and on. He even imitates Stephen Hawking and Mike Tyson in some of the history lessons. He needs to tighten up this program and cut about 10 minutes off the invective. That said, it's still a gem of the show with the Emmy award winning actor.
John Leguizamo: Latin History for Dummies runs through August 14, 2016, at the newly renovated Peet's Theatre. Tickets can be obtained by calling 510-647-2949 and on line at www.berkeleyrep.org.