Resist the urges to call the fire department that you will probably experience during John Leguizamo’s “Latin History for Morons,” which opened on Monday night at the Public Theater. That’s chalk dust, not smoke, rising from its star’s feverish frame.
Mr. Leguizamo, you see, has appointed himself our instructor in a class intended to rectify the omissions in standard school texts of his people’s — or peoples’ — contributions to American history. And this grandstanding (and leaping, sliding and hopping) actor and monologuist has equipped himself with the requisite accessories, including a blackboard and an industriously wielded eraser.
It’s understandable, though, if you mistake the chalky clouds in which he moves throughout this harshly funny, surprisingly poignant one-man show for the smoke of firing synapses. Mr. Leguizamo, as is his wont, is churning up hot waves of improbably connected ideas in “Latin History for Morons,” directed by Tony Taccone. As is also Mr. Leguizamo’s wont, he is translating thought into action worthy of an Iron Man competition.
There are those dances, for one thing — freestyle choreographic interpretations of ancient rituals by Aztecs and Incas, as well as sambas, mambos, tangos and an Irish jig. Then there’s his impersonation of his hard-of-hearing uncle, who annotates every word with a literal-minded gesture. And his re-creation of three-way fisticuffs, with Mr. Leguizamo as the punching bag in the middle, to demonstrate the value of loyalty among friends, which somehow relates to the fall of the Inca Empire.