ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp Review
Colin Quinn: Long Story Short
Quinn begins glibly with a few diverting accounts of rude people behaving badly in a hospital and in an elevator. Forgiven. It's a warm-up. Without becoming professorial, he segues casually into the myths, religious beliefs, philosophcial, social and political underpinnings of the worlds most dominent civilizations. Funnier than you may think.
Whether Quinn's spiel of one-liners will keep you laughing, or instead give you the feeling that you are living in the midst of an implosion of yet another empire, is entirely up to you. Quinn's motor-mouthed oral thesis may not always be uproarious, but it is consistently rib-tickling. Certainly not didactic in his presentation, Quinn stands before us, a regular looking, casually dressed guy who knows precisely how to deliver his brand of satiric humor.
His aim, we may presume, is to make us see the historical links that took us from the various mostly violent groups of cave men in need of a leader all the way forward in time for a paralleled glimpse of the scary/tough lugs who duke it out for supremacy in the lot behind the neighborhood bar. History we are made to see is not only constantly repeating itself but revealing itself as a comedy of epic proportions. If, as Quinn reminds us, it was up to the Greeks to philosophize that "An unexamined life is not worth living." Where then did this examination of the self actually lead them? To the theatre, of course: "Greek children watched about 40 hours of plays a week. A lot of parents felt it was too much, but what could they do? The kids were glued to it."
With Long Story Short Quinn, the former Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central star, has created an engaging, often witty, showcase for himself and his deployable talent: a gift for different dialects, subtle inflections and the kind of resourceful body language that have defined many a race and culture. Of course there's a stretch when his Caesar sounds and postures like an Italian don and when the English can't help blathering like effete Shakespeareans.
A success when it opened for a limited run this past summer (June 19 through September 4) Off Broadway at 45 Bleecker, Long Story Short also has the added cachet of being directed by mega comedy star Jerry Seinfeld. If one can detect Seinfeld's influence, it is probably in the way that he keeps Quinn committed to the text — especially as he recounts the influence of the Greek philosophers, the birth of Democracy, the empirical ambitions of the Romans and the abuse of Democracy, and the failure of our economic summits. The latter he blames on Switzerland for a very good reason that I won't disclose.
Quinn is at his funniest when he considers the Chinese work ethic and the real logic behind their building of the Great Wall. He gives the Russians credit for inventing depression, but credits himself for figuring out the reasons why the history of Africa is best understood if you think of six Brooklyn high schools getting out at once.
It is Quinn's road-runner style that remains at the fore,. It's a style that is never compromised by self-serving asides or shtick. At his best, Quinn draws all kinds of comical parallels between us and ancient cultures, particularly with the drug-intoxicated Mayans and Aztecs. Without being offensive, quite a feat considering the sensitivities and ethnicities embraced, he observes the behavioral idiosyncrasies that have made the English appear as if they have a general contempt for the rest of the world, and the French who don't seem to care much one way or the other. And how can we expect the Jews to make up their minds when the word "Shalom" means both hello and goodbye? Ask an Italian a question and he'll answer, "What are you, a cop?"
Ultimately Quinn reveals the course of history as a constant battle between the tough guys and the smart guys and more importantly how the course of history might have been changed had Marie Antoinette ended her famous remark about cake with "LOL."
This production marks Quinn's return to the Helen Hayes Theatre where he starred in Colin Quinn — An Irish Wake in 1998.