An evil clown. An eccentric French painter. A philandering husband. A fledgling drag queen. Man of a thousand faces, John Leguizamo has played an impressive variety of characters in his career. But in his current project, the one-man show Sexaholix . . . A Love Story, he performs some of his best work by taking on the most familiar role of all: himself.
The actor lays bare the rocky road to true love in his hilarious autobiographical stage piece, which just wrapped up a critically acclaimed run on Broadway. "It's really my journey as a young man in the sexual field, making mistakes, learning with a lot of women who've been very patient," he explains, "and also being married, happily divorced, and ending up with my soul mate."
Leguizamo's comedic storytelling of sex romps and snafus is dynamically raw, punctuated with frenzied body movements and trademark pelvic thrusts. But aside from his crowd-pleasing naughtiness, he also works in the more serious stuff from his past: relationships gone sour, the birth of his children and the death of his grandfather. "I try to put the whole cycle of life in my work," says Leguizamo. "I try to earn all my lowbrow-ness."
Of course, in order to effectively share his life story, Leguizamo can't resist doing brilliant caricatures of everyone he knows. He affectionately skewers his family, friends and ex-girlfriends with precise mimicry, a talent he played up in his three previous stage shows, Mambo Mouth, Spic-O-Rama and Freak, all of which won numerous drama awards. In Sexaholix, so many characters once more populate the stage through the medium of one man.
"People have to use their imaginations. You can tell stories through gesture and take people to different places just with words," Leguizamo says. He perfects his work for at least two years before taking it to the public, and even after that he still tinkers with it. "I work hard on it to make sure that it's great. Nothing is instantaneous."
In Phoenix, the first stop on his three-month-long tour, Leguizamo plans to try out some new material. He describes it as less angry than his earlier performances, and more optimistic. He's confident that he'll win over his audiences. "I think this is my funniest [play] -- that's what everybody keeps saying," he says.
This fall, Leguizamo plays the lead gangster in a new mobster movie, Empire, his latest in a long list of films, including Moulin Rouge, Summer of Sam and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet. But the volatility of performing before a live crowd will always give him a thrill that he can't get from working on a movie. "Stage is pretty amazing," he admits. "I mean, 3,000 people, hollering. You can't beat that."
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