Colin Quinn Takes Audience on Quick and Clever Trip Through the Centuries
By Amy J. Barry
In his new one-man show, Long Story Short, Colin Quinn - of Comedy Central and Saturday Night Live fame - takes his audience on a hilarious lightening speed trip through time and around the world. The 75-minute, one-act performance, written by Quinn and directed by his old friend Jerry Seinfeld, opened on Broadway last season, and is now on the road, making its debut on New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre stage.
Starting with Socrates, star of the ancient Greek Empire…and ending with Snooki, star of TV’s Jersey Shore reality show, we’re left with the same question Quinn poses at the beginning of his monologue: “With all the progress, where’s the progress?”
Aided only by a screen projecting images of the country he’s in at the moment, in his native Brooklyn accent, straight man delivery, Quinn makes such sharp remarks as “An unexamined life is not worth living, but an examined life isn’t particularly interesting, either.”
The influence of Seinfeld’s acute observations of human nature come through Quinn’s satiric goofing on the stereotypes and idiosyncrasies of various races and cultures: portraying Caesar as a mob leader right out of Goodfellas and describing the ancient Incas as coke fiends who gave the world art architecture, gold, and mathematics, along with human sacrifice, beheading, and cannibalism.
“That’s cocaine - it gives you the best ideas and the worst ideas simultaneously,” he quips.
Quinn delightfully digresses to pose larger questions about the progress we’ve made since the beginning of mankind, like how we live in a time in which we can isolate a single strand of DNA, stop a global plague, but still need to put up signs in public restrooms reminding employees that they MUST wash their hands.
He pokes fun at the continuous conflict between Jews and Arabs, pointing out that “everywhere the Jews go they get chased out—that’s why Shalom means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’”
Quinn draws very funny comparisons between cultures—the Chinese, on the one hand, who “love old people” and Americans, on the other hand, who offer Early Bird Specials to the elderly: “We’ll give you a dollar off your meal so we don’t have to look at you while we eat.”
There’s an abundance of great material and commentary in this show, and that’s part of the problem. So much is condensed into 75 minutes that Quinn’s fast-talking delivery feels rushed and it’s hard to absorb all these wonderful morsels without becoming overwhelmed.
The performance would benefit from more pregnant pauses and opportunities for the masterful comic actor to deliver the punch lines with a bang, rather than instantly racing on to the next “scene.”
There are only two choices: either cut some of the material so Quinn can slow down…or stretch the performance into two acts with an intermission.
But the show as it stands does mirror our plugged-in 24-7 frenetic culture—another statement the intelligent writing/directing makes without directly making it—and is an engaging, laughter-inducing night at the theater… although you might want to limit your caffeine intake prior to curtain time.
This review appeared in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers 8-18-11, 2011 and online at Zip06.com.