In his third Broadway engagement (we won’t count the revival of American Buffalo, which closed after eight performances in 2008), John Leguizamo returns to tell his life story in a one-man show. But wait, hasn’t he done this before? Leguizamo’s previous shows Freak and Sexaholix… a love story focused on specific aspects of his life (his family and his love life, respectfully). This newest piece, Ghetto Klown, drops the specifics and tackles Leguizamo’s entire life. But is this repeat performance worth it? If Leguizamo is performing, the answer is yes.
When Leguizamo takes the stage and tells of his obstacles on the road to becoming an actor, he reminds of Robin Williams; this ball of energy with a rubber face was destined to do one thing in life – perform. One needs only to look to the audience for confirmation. Throughout the performance I attended, Leguizamo had the crowd at the Lyceum Theatre in stitches. Yet laughter wasn’t the strongest indicator of Leguizamo’s control over the audience. There was a palpable connection in the theater between the people in the seats and the man on stage. Leguizamo’s story is a relatable one of humble beginnings and great achievements, with the underlying and realistic theme that nothing is ever perfect.
Leguizamo vividly paints the picture: his penned one-man shows open to critical acclaim, but his father is deeply offended by his son’s portrayal of him. Despite booking one high-profile film after another, Leguizamo is often cast in drug-dealer roles, and his scenes are frequently cut in editing. What makes Leguizamo’s story worth telling is that he grows from each of these experiences, and we are presented with the “klown” that is onstage before us. Read more
The creators of The Scottsboro Boys are out to make audiences squirm in their seats with discomfort. This new musical by John Kander and Fred Ebb tells the true story of nine black men who were wrongfully accused of raping two white women in Alabama in 1931 and put through hell in jail before being released years later. What puts audiences of Scottsboro into such discomfort are the grim historical facts and the jolting manner in which the story is told—a painfully wide-grinned minstrel show. This daring method of storytelling should be no surprise, as Kander and Ebb famously highlighted American judicial failure in the musical classic Chicago with tongue-in-cheeked razzle dazzle.
Along with book writer David Thompson, Kander and Ebb (the latter died in 2004) use the creepy, controversial minstrel method to juxtapose the injustice that is done to the nine innocent men and highlight the atrocious crimes of racism. Broadway legend John Cullum plays the minstrel staple of Interlocutor, who orders up the cast to tell a story. Coleman Domingo and Forrest McClendon play Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo, two other minstrel fixtures that rotate tirelessly through numerous roles. Domingo, as deranged as ever, is chilling as he brutalizes and tortures the Scottsboro Boys with insane evil as a sheriff, lawyer, and prison guard.
It’s a wonder that Domingo is able to sustain his heightened level of cartoon maniac throughout the show, yet the same can be said for the rest of the cast and the heavy subject matter. In the bluntly-titled number “Electric Chair,” Guard Bones and Guard Tambo terrify the youngest member of the Scottsboro Boys—Eugene, a little boy—with the possible fate of electrocution. The guards perform the number with sadistic pleasure, and it’s jolting to think that Jeremy Gumbs, the young actor who plays Eugene, is involved with such a dark show at his young age. Read more
The problem with adding this subtitle to In the Next Room is that it doesn’t fit the tone of the piece. This jocular addition would better fit the style of a show like Avenue Q or [title of show]. This play by Sarah Ruhl has some jokes, yes; good ones, at that. But at its heart, it is a drama about a historical turning point in the sexual education of adults.
Michael Cerveris plays Dr. Givings, a physician who treats women (and sometimes men) with “hysteria” and anxiety with his “paroxysm” tool, which will in the future be referred to as a vibrator. His wife, played by Laura Benanti, is inquisitive about her husband’s medical treatments, which go on in the room adjacent to the couple’s living room (hence In the Next Room). But her husband is annoyingly rigid about what he divulges about his practices and thus shelters Mrs. Givings. Read more
At a time in our culture when the man-boy is king at the box office, it seems to be the hip thing to discover what makes a man like this and what does it take for him to shake the first part of that moniker. reasons to be pretty is Neil LaBute’s take on the man boy, and how to smack the child right out of him (perhaps literally).
The student rush policy for reasons to be pretty states that the tickets go on sale two hours prior to the performance. I arrived at the Lyceum Theatre at 5 p.m., book in hand, ready to wait an hour for tickets to be released (hoping I’d be permitted to wait in the lobby instead of under the threatening clouds). I went to the ticket window to check that there were rush tickets available for the performance and the attendant surprisingly initiated the transaction – an hour early. That’s not the policy, but I’m certainly not going to complain. I was in and out, $26.50 third row balcony seat in hand. That’s the third tier in the Lyceum, which is so high and steep that it makes my palms sweat. The seats weren’t bad, but for a play that’s been playing to 42 percent attendance for the past three weeks, I’d have thought rush seats would have been closer. However, the producers seem quite discount friendly; in addition to the student rush policy, there are show promoters around Times Square offering $35-ticket coupons to the production. Read more