Leguizamo talks career in ‘Klass Klown’ 

On any given day, you might find John Leguizamo emotionally handcuffed to his mood swing. But that’s a good thing.

“I’m kind of a bipolar-ish schizophrenic,” Leguizamo admits with a laugh. “I run the gamut of being incredibly shy and withdrawn to being this crazy eccentric exhibitionist. I have always been like that.”

In most cases, it’s worked in his favor professionally. Enter “Klass Klown,” Leguizamo’s spirited new endeavor, which runs through June 12 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

The show is part of the theater company’s “Fireworks Festival,” a series of imaginative solo performances hitting the stage this summer.

In addition to “Klass Klown,” there’s “An Evening With David Sedaris” (June 14-20), Bay Area favorite Dan Hoyle’s “The Real Americans” (June 24-26) and “Tings Dey Happen” (June 30-July 1) and Wes Nisker’s “Crazy Wisdom Saves the World Again” (July 2-3).

Leguizamo may be in good company here, but there are few who can match his seemingly endless well of creativity or boundless energy — the man, he’s got spunk.

Beyond memorable turns in film (“Carlito’s Way,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Romeo + Juliet”), his stage shows often plunge into deep waters, exploring a bevy of emotional undercurrents, from childhood passages (“Mambo Mouth”) to sexual failures (“Sexaholix”).

But “Klass Klown” is unique in that it ventures away from his personal life and revolves around Leguizamo’s career.

“It’s a maddening process, man, and it’s a crazy amount of work,” he says of crafting the work. “It’s like the Sistine Chapel. I’ve been working on this for years. It’s incredibly complicated. Every moment has to be poetry — every line, every movement. It has to be very real and very heightened and very deep and very funny. I mean, I am up for the challenge, but it’s not easy.”

Fortunately, he’s able to find perspective.

“I used to be crazier,” he cracks. “When I didn’t act as much, I used to be a crazier dude in life. And now, I’m a much calmer dude in life, and much calmer in my work. I like it better that way.

“But with this show, I learned that I have incredible tenacity,” he adds. “I learned that I have incredible creativity and that it’s tough. I change the show every day and I give myself ridiculous goals, but I am achieving it. It’s like making my masterpiece and I am going at it ... 300 percent.”

John Leguizamo

Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; plus this Tuesday; 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday; closes June 12     
Tickets: $35; half price for those under 30
Contact: (510) 647-2949 or www.berkeleyrep.org

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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