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A CurtainUp Review
Sexaholix . . .  a Love Story,
Life isn't about fun and smiling all the time. Life is about pain and failure and misery and Budweiser.
--- grandfatherly advice that also sums up the mix that makes up Sexaholix
John Leguizamo
John Leguizamo
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
In his last Broadway solo show, Freak, John Leguizamo, burst onto the stage through a ring of paper. In Sexaholix, a blast of loud music has him exploding before a curtain strung with lightbulbs that echo his own high voltage energy. In his black leather jacket, and low-cut jeans, he exudes sexual energy and charisma, prancing and twisting his hips and well-developed torso like a young Latino Elvis.

Dancing and music ("the heart of all Latin people") is very much part of this Leguizamo Redux. It gets the show rolling with a mischievous take on how you can identify various social and ethnic types by the way they dance. and includes a salsa in the aisle with a delighted audience member at the beginning of the second act. This sort of audience participation is risky business, but Leguizamo has such a sure feel for his audience that I'd wager that he regularly manages to pick as nimble-footed a young lady as he did the other night — and one who'll treasure that charismatic hug he gives her when it's over.

Leguizamo loyalists, and there are legions, represent a multigrain slice of life, and they eat up his charm, his jokes — the more not-fit-for-print the better. Those who are attuned to the insider Latino jargon are enough of a presence to make it plausible to follow the suggestion "if you don't understand something to ask the person next to you".

Those who've seen the shows preceding this one — Mambo Mouth (his mouth still, moves as fast as those hips), Spic-o-Rama and Freak— much of Sexaholix will seem like a visit with an old friend. The conflict with his father which was at the heart of Freak, is now more a case of bringing dear old dad back into the picture as an amusing, peripheral character. The dad in the spotlight this time around is John himself travelling the road winding through a dysfunctional childhood, horny adolescence, transient affairs and, finally, true love with a Jewish girl (from as dysfunctional a family as his own) and two " little Jewricans" he clearly adores.

The autobiographical material is, as in the past, as much fiction as faction. While the material is hardly original, Leguizamo's observations of his family, girlfriends and himself have enough keen wit and connectedness to the audience to justify the theater setting rather than as part of a comedy club act or a sitcom.

The performer rises to brilliance in his at once loving and hilarious portrait of his grandfather. Here as in the scene describing the birth of his daughter, Leguizamo demonstrates his talent for letting his face and hands speak volumes without words or jokes. There are also several wuick sketches of the horny teen gang, The Sexaholix, he hung around with in Queens. However, they contribute little except the show's title.

Since this is an all-Leguizamo affair with Mr. L. writing as well as performing his own material, Peter Askin stays respectfully in the background so that his directorial hand is hardly visible. This is not always a good thing. A restraining hand to tighten the material would help rather than hinder, especially in the second act which sags in more than a few spots. Kevin Adams, on the other hand, is effectively visible with the way he makes that lightbulb curtain enhance the performer's strongest emotional moments.

The initial reaction to Sexaholix has been positive enough to extend its limited run the day after it opened. But one can't help wishing that Mr. Leguizamo won't limit his stage appearances to sandwiching bravura acting between routine comedy schtick. He's young and talented enough to be more than a hip wiggling in-your-face comic with sex appeal.


Sexaholix . . . a Love Story
Written by and starring John Leguizamo
Directed by Peter Askin
Lighting Design: Kevin Adams Running Time: 2 hours, including one 15 minute intermission
Royale Theatre, 242 W. 45th St (8/9 Aves) 212/239-6200.
Opened 12/03/01; closing 2/10/02
Tuesdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays -- $30-$70. ($15 for two front rows)
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Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on 12/04 performance
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