I don’t really go to the theater that often. I guess it’s just too hit or miss for me. Musicals are usually too – well – musical. Dramas usually seem to be too – well – dramatic. Most people in their twenties only seem to go to plays starring movie stars which usually suck (Wait Until Dark- Quentin Tarantino, Marisa Tomei), instead of attempting to tap into the world of true stage actors, a place where “do-overs” don’t count. I have seen a few good plays lately though, and the more good ones that I see the greater the likelihood that I will go see more in the future.
I guess it took hundreds of reviews, a piece on CBS Sunday morning, a website, and some great marketing to catch my attention enough to actually get me to the theater three blocks from where I work to see John Leguizamo’s brilliant one man show “Freak.” Leguizamo, is far more talented than his sketchy filmography might indicate (To Wong Foo, The Pest, Spawn, Super Mario Brothers). In “Freak” he combines the extraordinary verbal dexterity of a Robin Williams, the range of perfect multicultural impressions of a Tracy Ullman, the weirdness of a John Belushi, and the physical comedy skills of a Jim Carrey. The resulting combination is a very talented and amusing guy.
“Freak” is the remarkably moving and entertaining autobiographical tale of Leguizamo’s life, from childbirth to his first break in the entertainment business. Much of the first act deals with Leguizamo’s relationship with his family, primarily with his often drunk sometimes abuse father. The second act, which I found sharper and more relaxing, focuses more on Leguizamo and his own personal and professional maturation. One of Leguizamo’s greatest skills is his ability to derive humor from almost any situation. As he recounts the sad and sometimes tragic perils of his childhood, he is always able to extract or create a genuine comic element. This is in sharp contrast to the awkward forced humor that many comedians suffer from when they attempt to tackle personal subjects.
“Freak” is a nearly two hour extravaganza filled with a happy balance of sexual raunch, warped family values, and ethnic teasing. The painfully conservative Ratings Board of America would probably give it an R for harsh language, sexual subject matters, and hilarious irony. No racial group escapes without its share of jabs as Leguizamo nails almost every impression perfectly: Caribbean woman, German Hooker, Jewish Princess, Italian muscle-head, California frat brother, and mean drunken Colombian father. Needless to say, “Freak” was well worth that three-block jaunt.