There's no possible denying that John Leguizamo is talented. Anyone who has seen him in films (well, okay, most of his films) knows that he has abilities, both physical and vocal, that a lot of modern-day actors would probably kill to have (and if they wouldn't, they probably should). I've seen John Leguizamo in a number of things, but I didn't really understand the full range of his talents until I saw the HBO presentation of his production of Freak that played at the Cort a few years ago.
That piece, the third (as far as I'm aware) in his series of one-man shows (the other two are Mambo Mouth and Spic-O-Rama) was quite striking, dealing with a lot of his family life and sexual awakening. It was part theatre, part stand-up comedy, but it was all Leguizamo, and pretty darn entertaining. Even moving in a few places, believe it or not. Leguizamo can be dramatic or comedic at the drop of a hat.
Sexaholix... a love story, is, predictably, more of the same. There is a slightly greater focus on sex this time (as you may have guessed from the title), but still less than you may suppose. The title, in fact, actually refers to a clique or gang that Leguizamo joined in school, rather than to any of his own sexual exploits. If you're thinking, judging by the title, there are lots of tales of random sexual encounters, you couldn't be more wrong. All that's glossed over in a few lines, really, but he focuses primarily on just three or four major relationships, including the one with his current long-term girlfriend whom, he assures us, he loves too much to marry.
Sexaholix... was too much stand-up for my tastes; I wanted something to justify the Broadway theatre into which the show was placed, and I really didn't feel like I got it. He seemed far more focused this time on making the audience laugh than telling a story. As a result, I didn't laugh as much. Leguizamo's impersonations of his family and his girlfriend's family were great, his ad-libbing with the audience was quite amusing, and some of the jokes, as written, were very humorous in and of themselves. I just felt that a true sense of drama and narrative was missing. Freak had more of a consistent narrative than this play does, and he focused a lot more on bringing the characters out and making you care about the people involved. That really didn't happen here.
Maybe I shouldn't be surprised... One of the problems I had with Freak was the severe dichotomy between what is obviously made up and what you're not sure is made up. The scene, for example, where he describes the losing of his virginity (at his father's behest) is absurd and memorable for all the wrong reasons. Sexaholix pushed the envelope still farther... Does Leguizamo want to tell the story of his life, or does he just want to entertain us?
With Freak, I really got the sense he wanted to do both, but with Sexaholix, I think he was just going for entertainment. And there's nothing wrong with that; I have no problem whatsoever with being entertained when I go to the theatre. But if it's going to be a one-man show, I want it to lean on the side of theatre rather than on the side of stand-up. Leguizamo is incredibly gifted and could do well on the stage at Caroline's or any other stand-up comedy house in New York. Why Broadway?
I hope the answer is that because Leguizamo considers himself an actor first. And, if that's the case, that's great. More power to him. I'd love it if he'd deign to do a real show on Broadway sometime--I'd love to see how he does in a real play where he needs to use the skills as an actor I know he possesses, rather than relying on the schticky routines he used to propel himself through Sexaholix. He can be funny when he wants to be, but I think he's capable of much more. And, by extension, so was Sexaholix... a love story.
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