Latin History for Morons
Photo: Matthew Murphy.

Latin History for Morons

Written and performed by:
John Leguizamo

Directed by: Tony Taccone

Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles

September 5 – October 20,
2019

www.centertheatregroup.org

In what can be construed as a forward or prelude, John Leguizamo announces he is about to “undue your entire education.” Had you used some of that education to peruse the program you would have come across a daunting bibliography and reading list with 56 entries and nine “extracurricular readings.” Not to worry, Leguizamo will manage to fill close to two hours with a maniacal history lesson freeze dried from the reading list and set in a convincing school room designed by Rachel Hauck. Jared Diamond lands in the trash and Howard Zinn is embraced with lots of references in between, on top, and beyond. The audience, that’s you, is cast as the Morons, unless you are Latino.

More or less it goes like this: Leguizamo’s son has been bullied in the schoolyard of his elite private school by a kid whose family history included members of the Confederate army. Leguizamo is indignant. It is not just that the boy was called a “beaner,” the kid is half Jewish and half Columbian; 23 and me even says the father is mostly Native American. Underneath it all Leguizmo wants to protect and arm his son against the bullies. As any parent knows, that is a near impossible task.

Leguizamo, however devises a plan. His son has a term project requiring him to write about a hero. The father is convinced the kid should write about a Latino hero. The kid is reluctant: “There are no Latino heroes.” This is the genesis of Leguizamo’s encyclopedic quest. To be honest, it ends up being more about him than the son. As every parent learns, there is nothing more embarrassing to a kid than a parent.

Leguizamo is brilliant performer. He blasts through the various injustices inflicted by Europeans on the native populations of the Americas. No germ is left unturned. He is thoroughly entertaining punctuating his litany with terrific agility and perfectly executed dance moves. “The Conquistadores were like NBA players at a Kardashian pool party.” It was impossible to get many quotes down for fear of being 5 zingers behind. Pity the Moron who has no basis in the early history of the Americas. Much would float over his head. Or, in 2019 should I say “their” head.

“Latin History for Morons” walks a tightrope anchored by political correctness and biting humor. This is not a forum for nuance. Written with wit and sarcasm, infused with energy and timing, “Latin History for Mormons” manages to cover a lot of territory. Leguizamo is mesmerizing, but read some of the history for yourself. He is on more solid ground as an entertainer than as a careful historian. There have been multiple injustices, but sometimes his actual math does not add up.

Karen Weinstein

Los Angeles ,
Weinstein is a clinical psychologist who teaches in the medical school at UCLA. She also holds a master's degree in Urban Studies and has a strong interest in history and architecture, as well as the theater.