John Leguizamo’s Klass Klown @ Berkeley Rep
A few nights ago I was able to catch John Leguizamo’s one-man show Klass Klown at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre thanks to my friend J who found out about it randomly on Facebook (yay Facebook!). I have to say that it was one of the best performances I’ve seen in a while.
This is Leguizamo’s fourth one-man show after Freak, Mambo Man, and Spic-o-Rama. He also had his stand-up show Sexaholix – A Love Story which had me cracking up a few years ago when I caught it on HBO. Klass Klown chronicles his chaotic and serendipity-filled trajectory through the world of acting beginning when he was a little kid moving from Colombia with his parents. Throughout the show we meet various characters via Leguizamo’s ingenious impersonations. From his childhood best friend and eventual business partner Ray Ray, to his first acting teacher, to his various loves Leguizamo introduces us to the people who served as catalysts, mentors, barriers, and sidekicks in his journey through theatre and Hollywood. As a treat, he also impersonates various directors and actors that he’s worked with including: Harrison Ford, Steven Segal, Kurt Russell, Patrick Swayze, Baz Luhrmann, and the king of them all – Al Pacino. But my personal favorite is his grandfather, from the shake in his voice to the pants up to his chest, I felt like I was in the presence of a wise (and hilarious!) old man. I loved it!
One of the major take home points is that you need to follow your heart, even if in your mind it seems like less than what you could do. Because at the end of the day, it’s not about burning yourself out just to reach your maximum potential, it’s really about being happy with what you’re doing. Included in this lesson is that sometimes, the people you want to please the most have their own demons to deal with that may have nothing to do with you. Leguizamo takes us through the decision process for some pretty major choices he made (TV over film, film over theatre, and eventually theatre over everything); and his life in a way comes full circle, much like the show itself. It’s a bit of a time warp – it ends where it began.
And I think this is a great lesson for people to learn; especially people of color who often feel like the weight of their entire community rests on their shoulders (Leguizamo has to deal with the agonizing decision of taking acting roles that serve to perpetuate stereotypes). Losing the hope that you can make waves of difference in the world can be rather freeing. And a happy Latino in the acting world is definitely a role model no matter what, but especially one who is able to use his experience as a Latino to influence his work and make people laugh about it.
With Leguizamo’s show, we get to see how life can be art if told with the right narrative, characters, and of course, with complete and utter honesty. It also doesn’t hurt to be incredibly funny.
Leguizamo’s show is done at the Rep, but catch his stand up on youtube!