photographer, writer and creator

John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons | Cadillac Palace Theatre, October 28th, 2019

4 out of 4 stars
(Originally published on Chicago Stage Standard)

Following its Tony-nominated Broadway performances, Latin History for Moronscomes to Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre for a limited one-week engagement. The show written and performed by the talented John Leguizamo. Inspired by the near total absence of Latinos from his son’s American History books, Leguizamo embarks on an outrageously funny, frenzied search to find a Latin hero for his son’s school history project. From a mad recap of the Aztec Empire to stories of unknown Latin patriots of the Revolutionary War and beyond, Leguizamo breaks down the 3,000 years between the Mayans and Pitbull into 110 irreverent and uncensored minutes above and beyond his unique style.

The space and set is fully a utilized set with props in specific places; bits that need to move about the stage. The focal point being the chalkboard where Leguizamo sets his lesson to his audience. The scenic design by Rachel Hauck wonderfully sets the scene between classroom and chaotic professor’s office piled with papers and books. With file cabinets, shopping carts and chalkboard, Leguizamo navigates the stage to find books and props throughout the performance. Alexander V. Nichols lighting design adds some spark to each segment, and regardless of opening night mishaps the music and sound design by Bray Poor sets the mood for an urban merengue. Although technical issues occurred during the performance I attended, Leguizamo played it off well and trudged on through his epic. The peaks and valleys of his story telling really holds the audience captivated. A humorous interpretation that held a seamless transition between characters. Not only does he play all of his family, he creates these hyper real characterizations of Columbus, the Aztecs, and more. Latin History for Morons marks John Leguizamo’s sixth one-man venture onto the stage, following success on Broadway with Ghetto Klown (Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama Desk Award). Latin History for Morons concluded its successful run on Broadway on February 25, 2018.

His approach to this work is not only to be a satire, but a bold obvious in your face look at the ethnocide of 5 huge civilizations stemming from the Latin culture. “Explored and extinct” is how these major groups are described, while the parallels between Columbus, the Spanish conquistadors and our own modern world are endless. These five major groups are so interconnected in DNA from history that you can barely separate out an exact origin. This is what the driving force behind Leguizamo’s work is, the immense wealth of knowledge backed by cold hard facts cited from several creditable sources. A lack of representation makes you feel invisible Leguizamo explains and his work pushes forward all the voices rising in this country about representation and diversity. Through humor, he illustrates the immense need for eliminating a white washed history and bringing to light a more perfect blend of acceptance in America’s messy history. This performance speaks volumes to our current social climate and is a true commentary on historical traumas and conflicts being reflected back at us paralleling to modern issues.

At the end of the day, you leave the theater fully charged. This sense that although we have made some movement in our country towards more voices being heard, there is still so much more to be done. Three things stuck with me long after the performance. First was the suppression of rage Leguizamo mentions in regards to this “ancestral PTSD”; second was the echoing words “Latin life is cheap in America”; and finally, “violence is the lowest form of communication”. The three pillars that contextualize the anger felt, yet also the perseverance and patience needed to fight against cultural injustices that are ever present. So reader I urge you, who are your Latin heroes? Can you name any: why or why not? While the division in our country is deepening, can you see history repeating? What will you do about it?

Latin History for Moronsplayed at the Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph) for a limited one-week
engagement until November 3rd, 2019. For more information, please visit www.LatinHistoryOnTour.com. It is also available to watch on Netflix.