Theater Review: LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS (Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles)

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by Tony Frankel on September 9, 2019

in Theater-Los Angeles,Tours


One-man stage phenom John Leguizamo, who has popularized the stories of his Columbian/Puerto Rican/Bronx Ghetto peeps and their culture in semi-autobiographical shows Mambo MouthFreakSpic-O-Rama, and Ghetto Klown, returns with lefty, sobering, highly entertaining monologue that brings home the tragic 3000-year history of Latino Americans. While the show is titled Latin History for Morons, don’t expect to learn much about Latins outside of the Americas, as Leguizamo’s U.S.-centric, 2018 Tony-nominated play is concerned with burning off the steam of oppression and injustice, and figuring out how to turn a violent past into an inspired future (although much less on the latter).

Tantalizingly witty and immensely enlightening, the show’s arc concerns Leguizamo’s son, who is having difficulty in middle-school both with a bully and coming up with a Latino hero for a school assignment. With a kinetic performance involving dancing, skipping, body slamming and caricaturizing (he’s as subtle as a two-ton piano crashing on your head), the indefatigable 54-year-old force of nature relates how corrective history books came to his rescue when trying to relate to his son.

With info from tomes such as Charles C. Mann’s 1491 and Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (which when mentioned got applause on opening night at the Ahmanson), we get a chalkboard talk as he fancifully gallops through the ugly truth: that most of the original inhabitants of the Americas – Incas, Mayans, Natives — were wiped out by Columbus, Pissarro, King Phillip II, and their cronies via disease and attack — and sex: To Aztecs, conquistadors acted like “NBA players at a Kardashian pool party,” says the fiercely funny modern-day fool.

Director Tony Taccone, who just left his helm at Berkeley Rep, elucidates just why these one-man shows need leadership. Adding stage nuances that the book lacks, and adding super-tight light and music cues, Taccone takes what could have delved into a brow-beating White-shaming lecture and turns it into a show that is for everyone, even those who could get perturbed at the professorially clad Leguizamo’s mocking display of cultural stereotypes. In almost two hours, 3000 years simply flies by.

photos by Matthew Murphy

Latin History for Morons
national tour presented by Center Theatre Group
Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre
135 N. Grand Ave.
ends on October 20, 2019
for tickets, call 213.972.4400 or visit CTG

tour continues through December, 2019
for dates and cities, visit Morons

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