John Leguizamo has proved, in various mediums and genres, that he is versatile, witty, inventive, and charming. He writes and delivers funny dialogue within his monologues, interrupts his acting to execute nimble dance steps both elegant and satirical, and creates characters with facial expressions, vocal mannerisms, and body language that blend into a riotous lingua franca. He brings these skills to his Broadway show Freak, which purports to be semi-autobiographical and is surely, in Anatole France’s great phrase, a story truer than truth.
We follow here, with the help of Jan Kroeze’s lighting and Wendall K. Harrington’s projections, the life of “John Leguizamo” from gamete to gamin, from beleaguered kid to burgeoning individual, from Hispanic underling in changing but always hostile neighborhoods to self-possessed young actor whom even his tyrannical father comes grudgingly to respect. There are the three stages to sexual adulthood: the “accidental” discovery of masturbation (“I was cleaning it, and it went off”), the initiation by a German trollop of Wagnerian dimensions (“And she makes the international cunnilingus sign at me”), the attempt to pick up an Irish lass in a bar (“You know the type, redheaded, freckled, drunk”).
There are even a few surreal elements, but mostly plain, free-swinging humor – e.g., “I’m glad you are in therapy, but you’re remembering somebody else’s life,” or this, from an ethnic antagonist, “I’ve heard about you Mexicans buying up all the Cabbage Patch dolls for their birth certificates.” Yet what you will remember most is Leguizamo prancing about acrobatically, doing accomplished accent work and impressions, and eliciting infectious complicity from every soul in the audience. There are occasional longueurs, derivative patches, and bits more crude than funny; all in all, though, Freak pricks the converted as deftly as it preaches to the unconverted and gets away with it.