THOUGHTS: John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons

Latin History blackboard

Award-winning playwright, actor, and performer John Leguizamo in the world premiere of Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

John Leguizamo opens his new one-man show with a bit about his son getting bullied at his middle school. The bully comes from a long line of cops and veterans, or, as he puts it, “heroes.” To boost his son’s spirits and maybe his social standing, and because, as it turns out, his son actually has to write a paper about the subject to graduate 8th grade, Leguizamo decides to find a Latin American hero for his son to be proud of.

In Latin History for Morons Leguizamo is operating under the assumption that we, the audience, didn’t learn Latin American history in school. Equipped with a blackboard, chalk, and stacks of books, he sets out of teach us everything we don’t know about Latin America, beginning in 2000 BC. It’s a lot of history to cover in 90 minutes, so as you can imagine, Leguizamo goes broad: the Aztecs, the Incas, the Tainos, and various US Native American tribes. For the most part, we, the audience, have hopefully heard about these civilizations that got subsumed by the Spanish Conquistadors. But as he gets farther into the present, he comes up with historical figures we haven’t heard of, including Loreta Velázquez, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Civil War.

Leguizamo riffing

Award-winning playwright, actor, and performer John Leguizamo in the world premiere of Latin History for Morons at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of Kevin Berne/Berkeley Repertory Theatre

The history is interspersed with the recent past. Leguizamo takes on the characters of his kids, his wife, and even his therapist. In these scenes we see a father who is trying to relate to his teenage kids and who comes to terms with the fact that there is so much he wasn’t taught about his ancestry. What person of color in the United States hasn’t felt that?

Under Tony Taccone’s direction, Latin History for Morons is the most fun I’ve had at the theater in a long time. What John Leguizamo’s show lacks in depth, it makes up for in sheer energy and hilarious one-liners. But it also reminds us that it’s important to know all of our history, and it’s important for our children’s education and our own education to include non-European heroes.

Reasons to Go:

  • John Leguizamo is a joy to watch.
  • The show features some politically-relevant humor.
  • You’ll want to go dig up your own history!

Who should go: Adults and teens

Tips:

  • There is no intermission.
  • There is an option for “Head of the Class” seating. These seats are two rows at the foot of the stage, and you will probably be incorporated into the show.
  • John Leguizamo will be signing copies of his graphic novel Ghetto Klown for 30 minutes after each performance (but only if you purchase the book on site).

Themes: Latin America, bullying, history, education

Advisory: Adult language, allusions to sex

Show information: Playing through August 14 at Berkeley Rep 

 

 

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