The expletives flew when John Leguizamo tried to insert some Method acting into a movie scene with Al Pacino.
In “Ghetto Klown,” Leguizamo’s ferociously funny new Broadway show, the young actor explains that he was eager to show off his serious actor skills while playing a pimp in Brian De Palma’s 1993 “Carlito’s Way.”
Prowling the stage of the Lyceum Theatre with feline precision, Leguizamo nails all three players in this little comedy: the miffed star, the peace-at-all-costs director and the young actor desperate to break the mold.
Over the course of the evening, Brando, Lee Strasberg, Kurt Russell, Wesley Snipes and Patrick Swayze are also definitively, sometimes scathingly, captured.
The non-stars, though, are more compelling. They include his Colombian family, his best friend, several girlfriends and a wife. Most important is the abusive, often absent father whose wrath the young man fears but whose love he craves.
Leguizamo, 46, can be seen as a bail bondsman opposite Matthew McConaughey in the just-released “The Lincoln Lawyer.” Films have rarely captured his range, though Baz Luhrmann cast him as a chilling Tybalt in “Romeo and Juliet” and, later, as Toulouse-Lautrec in “Moulin Rouge.”
On stage, however, as a comedian with a hunger, Leguizamo has brought audiences into his highly populated, ever-evolving life. Success has come with a price, of course.
In “Ghetto Klown,” more than in his previous solo Broadway shows (“Freak” and “Sexaholix...a Love Story”), he uses many masks ultimately to reveal a naked self capable of astonishing stupidity, leading to depression and self-medication with the usual mix of alcohol, drugs and sex.
Happy Massee’s set is dominated by a screen on which Aaron Gonzalez throws images from the star’s Jackson Heights, Queens, neighborhood as well as clips from movies.
Director Fisher Stevens has clearly spent a lot of time helping Leguizamo shape what can sometimes be unshapely -- there’s a lot of territory to cover, and perhaps 15 minutes too long is spent covering it. But when the inevitable father-son reconciliation comes, the actor takes us way beyond laughter.
At 149 W. 45th St. Information: +1-212-239-6200; http://www.telecharge.com Rating: ***
There’s continuing debate over what contribution Shakespeare made, if any, to “Double Falsehood,” credited as a collaboration between the Bard in retirement and his contemporary, John Fletcher.
An unsavory drama concerning good and evil brothers and their female prey, it includes rape, abduction and a marriage only a woman-hater could love. “Double Falsehood” lacks the strain of humanity and forgiveness that lends similar Shakespeare plots any palatability. If this is by the Bard, it’s bad Bard.
The always adventurous Classic Stage Company, abjuring its usual star-studded casting, has done the drama no favors with Brian Kulick’s amateurish production.
We face a wall of oriental-style rugs, which also take the place of a set. They’re moved around fussily to denote changes of location. In a mostly youthful and untested cast, the standouts are bald-pated Slate Holmgren as the nasty brother, Henriquez, and Mackenzie Meehan as his victim. I mean wife.
Through April 3 at 136 E. 13th St. Information: +1-212-352-3101; http://www.classicstage.org Rating: *
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Very Good ** Average * Not So Good (No stars) Avoid
(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)