“Ghetto Klown” is John Lequizamo’s new one-man show on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre that presents a semi-autobiographical look at Lequizamo’s life from growing up in Queens to becoming the household name he is today. Lequizamo launches into the show dancing and getting the crowd warmed up as he grooves, grinds and attempts a dancer’s split to the sounds of James Brown’s “Get Up”. Dressed in burgundy velour sweats, a blue sweat jacket and a NY Giants baseball cap, the audience is ready to laugh, play along and often empathize with Lequizamo’s well constructed timeline of his life beginning in the mid-sixties until the present. He immediately thanks the audience for being the best therapy anyone could ask for as he begins to delve into an often cathartic storytelling of his life exposing everyone that has somehow had an effect or shaped his life.
Through a brilliant combination of a projection/video screen shaped like a billboard to music and a set made to look like a fire escape and apartment, Lequizamo bounces and covers a lot of territory both literally and throughout his journey to fame. The video screen offers highlights of Lequizamo’s life including pictures of family, friends, past girlfriends, schools, acting teachers, and fellow actors. He is able to further extrapolate the key players often adding graffiti-like writing, drawings, scribbles and added descriptions painting a picture of a life he sometimes likes to embellish or call himself out on the choices he’s made.
Of particular note is a video clip he played three times used to describe how he deals with depression. First he locks himself up in his apartment, drinks too much, sleeps too much, becomes paranoid looking out the window and finally shows John simulating masturbation all day long. The hilarious clip became increasingly funnier each time while showing a side of John that was raw and probably not dissimilar to how many of us deal with roller coaster emotions.
We learn early on in the show that John was somewhat of a class clown and had a little trouble with the law in which his parents had to bail him out. He talks about his middle school in Queens that could have easily been architecturally mistaken for the correction facility he just left as he switches slide shows back and forth of both depressing structures. His parents play a major role in his life helping fuel humor, grief and moments of tenderness. His references of his mother are nothing short of brilliant from her accent to how he imitates her embarrassment of not wanting to call any unwanted attention to her or her family. Apparently, she hasn’t seen the humor in being referenced on the Broadway stage.
His father and Grandfather offer additional fuel for laughs and moments of sensitivity to our protagonist. Lequizamo’s portrayal of the latter is that of a man who supports his Grandson but, seems to have delusions of an earlier period of his life that involved joining the revolution. His father seems to have caused the most grief throughout John’s life as he was not unlike many immigrants who came to America to offer their family a better way of life. And so it’s with great pain when he hears of John’s desires to become an actor telling him that they came to America to improve their lives not make them worse.
Struggles with his father and three love relationships are all played out by Lequizamo throughout “Ghetto Klown” as he plays himself and imitates every character that has helped shape his life and career. His imitation of his manager, who helped him land many of his film and tv roles like “Miami Vice”, “Romeo + Juliet”, “To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar” and “Carlito’s Way” is played as the quintessential image of a coke induced slime ball who’s trying to make a buck on another actor. Other dead on imitations are made of fellow actors he’s shared the screen with like Al Pacino, Patrick Swayze and Steven Siegal who also makes for fun fodder in Kathy Griffin’s Broadway show as well.
There are so many hilarious moments infused into “Ghetto Klown” that are immersed in the entire linear storyline. The audience goes from dancing in their seats to laughing hysterically over a one-liner to being touched by raw moments that Lequizamo chooses to share that further his life story with touching wit. John Lequizamo is a true talent who has seen his star rise and fall but, he’s at his best when he’s allowed to release his inner “Ghetto Klown”.
“Ghetto Klown” is at the Lyceum Theatre: 149 West 45th Street NY, NY 10036 www.ghettoklownonbroadway.com