Film actors ought to be very wary of co-starring in anything with John Leguizamo. As documented in his new one-man show “Ghetto Klown,” Leguizamo has a penchant for making up his own lines on the spot, much to the confusion and aggravation of those around him.
“Ghetto Klown,” Leguizamo’s fifth autobiographical monologue, charts his rise as an actor in film and theater.
In recent interviews, Leguizamo has described it as “A Portrait of a Middle-Aged Man as an Artist.” As in his previous shows, his difficult relations with his family and his numerous sexual encounters also are covered in great detail.
In a program note, Leguizamo warns the audience that “events have been re-created for clarity.”
Anyone even vaguely familiar with Leguizamo’s career will notice how the chronology of his past shows and films has been shifted around for the sake of narrative.
In the beginning, Leguizamo presents himself as a wild Latino youth growing up in Queens who desperately wants to be funny. He is so in need of an outlet for performance that he breaks into the conductor’s booth of a subway train and yells at the top of his lungs, “I’m free!”
After later studying with acting guru Lee Strasberg, he grows increasingly dissatisfied with what he sees as mindless film roles.
He finds salvation only when onstage performing his own lines and exploring his past, finding it rather like a form of free therapy.
Leguizamo impersonates many of the co-stars he’s worked with, including Patrick Swayze, Al Pacino, Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal. He even depicts how he and Swayze got into a brawl while filming “To Wong Foo” in drag and auditioning for Baz Lurhmann’s remake of “Romeo & Juliet” with a chipped tooth.
A large billboard in the background is used to project photos and videos — including a hilarious clip [repeated several times] of Leguizamo in the midst of a depression.
The show, which runs about 2 1/2 hours, could be tightened here and there. But as helmed by Fisher Stevens, it makes for a very entertaining, physical and heartfelt piece of theater.
If you go: “Ghetto Klown” plays at the Lyceum Theatre through July 10. 149 W. 45th St., 800-432-7250. Ghettoklown.com.