- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 15, 2002

John Leguizamo's "Sexaholix A Love Story" gets its title half-right. The Tony-nominated one-man show, running through tomorrow at the Warner Theatre, obsesses over sexual matters with the delicacy of a boys' locker-room chat. Yet love doesn't rear its selfless head until the final, unconvincing moments when Mr. Leguizamo comes to grips with fatherhood.

Mr. Leguizamo, a winning screen presence in 2001's "Moulin Rouge" and 1999's "Summer of Sam," possesses too much stage presence to get away with hitting targets as obvious as those "Sexaholix" strikes.

Stutterers, a stroke-addled grandfather and school-yard-level sexual gags should be beneath someone with his array of comic skills.

His many characterizations, though full of colorful tics and acutely realized inflections, never reveal the real people beneath them. It's especially true with his female characters, who mostly are shrill, pathetic or both.

Directed by Peter Askin, "Sexaholix" opens with Mr. Leguizamo bouncing onstage to a muscular musical beat.

"We're gonna get raw tonight," he bellows, clad in a Fonzie-style leather jacket and white T-shirt.

The current tour, he says, is his way of getting out of the house, now that he has a steady girlfriend and two young children.

He pins much of his personal dysfunction on his family, yet we never learn enough about his parents to make the connection. "We were poor and my father was cheap on top of it. It was a bad combination," Mr. Leguizamo says.

The parents' turbulent marriage dissolves early, leaving Mr. Leguizamo's mother to fend for herself and her two mischievous sons.

At one potentially telling moment, he describes a warm phone call from his father after Mr. Leguizamo's own ill-fated marriage disintegrates. But the call merely lets the comic segue into a contrived karaoke sequence in which he sings to an ex-lover while his father chats up women half the dad's age.

Perhaps worst of all, Mr. Leguizamo wallows in physical re-creations of lovemaking, a visual gag which neither offends nor, after the first time, amuses.

Some inspired comments sneak in through the gyrations.

He tells one lover, "You're supposed to love me no matter what," only to hear her purr, "Baby, you're confusing me with Jesus."

He tells another girlfriend that they don't need children. "We have me," he says in a moment of candor.

A motherly spanking is transformed into a silly dance vignette, allowing Mr. Leguizamo to plug in to his endless reservoir of electricity.

Mr. Leguizamo's previous shows, including "Mambo Mouth," "Spic-o-rama" and "Freak," showed the New York City native's penchant for cultural examinations. He mines similar material here, exploiting cultural myths with his motormouth and perpetually thrusting hips.

To his credit, Mr. Leguizamo's stage work introduces audiences to a cultural side of America often neglected. For all the talk of underrepresentation of black characters in television and film, Hispanics are offered far less chances to shine.

Unfortunately, the comic uses his platform to reinforce arguably his culture's ugliest stereotype, that of the sex-crazed Latino.

How much more entertaining might it have been if Mr. Leguizamo had detailed his curious and multilayered performing career?

Like Jackie Mason and other top-shelf performers before him, Mr. Leguizamo's show is simply a stand-up act without the boozy, comedy-club crowds to heckle him. The only visual splashes in "Sexaholix" amount to the backdrop of twinkling lights that flare into life every 15 minutes or so.

Throughout "Sexaholix's" most mundane stretches, one can see an improvised dance bubbling under Mr. Leguizamo's surface. Much like the show, the comic comes alive when he gives in to his internal rhythms.

It's when he stops moving and starts examining his immature relationships without feeling that the music truly stops.


WHAT: John Leguizamo's "Sexaholix A Love Story"

WHERE: Warner Theatre, Thirteenth Street between E and F streets NW

WHEN: 2 and 8 p.m. today and 3 p.m. tomorrow

TICKETS: $31.50 to $55.50

PHONE: 703/573-SEAT, 301/808-6900 or 202/432-SEAT or online at www.ticketmaster.comMAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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