LOU'S VIEWS: Leguizamo tries out Indy

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Lou Harry

This week, a film and theater star uses Indy as a test market, Shakespeare holds a rain-soaked mob, and a somber ISO plows through a Beatles afternoon.


I’m no producer, but I’m convinced that with a show as funny as John Leguizamo’s, he could have easily sold out the Murat or Clowes Hall.

John Leguizamo tried out his latest show—part play, part stand-up comedy, at the IRT. (Photo Courtesy Carol Rosseg)

But the actor known for such films as “Moulin Rouge” and “Romeo + Juliet” had another agenda when he came to town July 31 and Aug. 1. Leguizamo is shaping his latest heading-for-New-York-and-probably-HBO show. And rather than take it to a bigger auditorium, he performed it in front of a small-ish crowd at the Indiana Repertory Theatre July 31 and Aug. 1.

To be clear, this as-yet-untitled show—in the tradition of his acclaimed “Freak” and “Sexoholix”—wasn’t straight stand-up. While the laughs were big and plentiful, Leguizamo’s show did have a narrative arc, albeit loose, to it. And beyond a stool, it also featured two large slide screens, controlled from the stage.

While “Freak” covered much of his family life, this show is shaping up to focus more on the ups and downs, triumphs and bafflements of Leguizamo’s professional career. Big laughs were had from his sharp—and often biting—caricatures of such Hollywood familiars as Al Pacino (whom he worked with on “Carlito’s Way”), Robert De Niro (“The Fan”), and the “baked” Harrison Ford (“Regarding Henry”). Kurt Russell and Steven Seagal (“Executive Decision”) come across particularly badly, but Leguizamo is more than willing to humiliate himself as well, as he does in stories about such fiascos as “Super Mario Bros” (he was Luigi). For nearly 2-1/2 hours, he kept the audience caught up in such tales, offering a kind of “Inside the Not-quite-star Actors Studio.”

The downside, a small one, is Leguizamo’s tendency to resort to bumper-sticker familiar punch lines that cheapen some stories. And he hasn’t yet found the optimal balance of free-standing funny stories and narrative pull. The would-be cathartic conclusion also feels rushed.

But that’s what out-of-town tryouts are for. And I’m thrilled that he chose our town to do his trying.


I had the pleasure on Aug. 1 of hosting the pre-show festivities for Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park production of “Much Ado About Nothing,” which meant welcoming the crowd, introducing musicians Tim Brickley and a student string quartet, offering up some trivia (so which planet has most of its satellites named for the Bard’s characters? Anybody?) and, most enjoyably, watching hundreds of people fill Celebration Amphitheatre at White River State Park.

Heartland Actors Repertory Theatre brought free Shakespeare to White River State Park. (Photo Courtesy White River State Park)

It was heartening to see blankets and chairs and coolers create a patchwork on the terraced hill, knowing this wasn’t for severely truncated or gimmicked-up Shakespeare, but for a just-about-full-length, fairly traditional treatment of the play.

Shifting my role from emcee to audience member (who, I’m not ashamed to confess, had never seen “Much Ado” beyond the lush Kenneth Branagh film version), I found myself quickly charmed by battling Beatrice and Benedick and the efforts of their cronies to make a love connection between them.

The “Othello”-lite plot line of the jealous rift created by Don John to separate swooning lovers Claudio and Hero also was presented with remarkable clarity. I say “remarkable” because, at intermission, I heard a number of people remarking how surprised they were to be understanding—and enjoying—the proceedings. Shakespeare doesn’t seem so hard when you are in the company of professionals.

Chris Hatch, as the enthusiastic Don Pedro, and Charles Goad, transforming from welcoming host to intense betrayed father, were instrumental in forging those human connections between the company and audience.

I was less enamored with the supporting company, which largely seemed to be filling up space. As for Matthew Roland’s Dogberry, I was initially put off by his Python-esque delivery (I kept expecting him to demand … a shrubbery) but came to appreciate his commitment to creating a rounded character out of Shakespeare’s comic creation. If only others in his showcase scene were so committed.

Sound problems that reportedly marred Friday night’s presentation were largely gone by Saturday. The White River melded beautifully with Lindsey Lyddan’s simple stage design. And the rain that doused the audience chased few away, mercifully kept the setting sun from blinding us, and helped elevate a good production of a beautifully written silly comedy into the centerpiece of a warm and wonderful evening. Expect even bigger crowds next year.


Because of the above-mentioned two events, I missed the mob scene at Conner Prairie that greeted the ISO and the faux-Beatles Classical Mystery Tour. I did, however, catch the coffee concert matinee July 31, where the somber, scowling musicians were clearly still reeling from the news that their maestro, Mario Venzago, had been de-batoned not 24 hours earlier.

The four lads did their best, but the (Ob-la-Di, Ob-la-Da) life-goes-on spirit clearly wasn’t in the half-filled house. • 



Visit ibj.com/arts for additional reviews, previews and arts discussion. Twitter: IBJarts


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. From the story: "The city of Indianapolis also will consider tax incentives and funding for infrastructure required for the project, according to IEDC." Why would the City need to consider additional tax incentives when Lowe's has already bought the land and reached an agreement with IEDC to bring the jobs? What that tells me is that the City has already pledged the incentives, unofficially, and they just haven't had time to push it through the MDC yet. Either way, subsidizing $10/hour jobs is going to do nothing toward furthering the Mayor's stated goal of attracting middle and upper-middle class residents to Marion County.

  2. Ron Spencer and the entire staff of Theater on the Square embraced IndyFringe when it came to Mass Ave in 2005. TOTS was not only a venue but Ron and his friends created, presented and appeared in shows which embraced the 'spirit of the fringe'. He's weathered all the storms and kept smiling ... bon voyage and thank you.

  3. Not sure how many sushi restaurants are enough, but there are three that I know of in various parts of downtown proper and all are pretty good.

  4. First off, it's "moron," not "moran." 2nd, YOU don't get to vote on someone else's rights and freedoms that are guaranteed by the US Constitution. That's why this is not a state's rights issue...putting something like this to vote by, well, people like you who are quite clearly intellectually challenged isn't necessary since the 14th amendment has already decided the issue. Which is why Indiana's effort is a wasted one and a waste of money...and will be overturned just like this has in every other state.

  5. Rick, how does granting theright to marry to people choosing to marry same-sex partners harm the lives of those who choose not to? I cannot for the life of me see any harm to people who choose not to marry someone of the same sex. We understand your choice to take the parts of the bible literally in your life. That is fine but why force your religious beliefs on others? I'm hoping the judges do the right thing and declare the ban unconstitutional so all citizens of Wisconsin and Indiana have the same marriage rights and that those who chose someone of the same sex do not have less rights than others.