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Long Story Short

Colin Quinn's exceedingly clever, surprisingly informative, and often hilarious examination of world history and popular culture proves to be a welcome addition to the Broadway season.

By New York City
Colin Quinn in Long Story Short
(© Carol Rosegg)
Colin Quinn in Long Story Short
(© Carol Rosegg)
In his new solo show, Long Story Short, now at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre after a summer run at 45 Bleecker, former Saturday Night Live star Colin Quinn sets out, in his fashion, to tell the whole history of the world in a mere 75 minutes. Talk about your tall orders!

While he may not totally accomplish that obviously impossible goal, Quinn nevertheless provides an exceedingly clever, surprisingly informative, and often hilarious look about how our current behavior is informed by the various civilizations where we've come from -- and in doing so, provides a welcome addition to the Broadway season.

The piece, which has been simply and smoothly directed by superstar Jerry Seinfeld, takes the form of an illustrated lecture (abetted by award-winning set designer David Gallo's sometimes breathtaking and consistently spot-on large-scale projections) -- in which Quinn discusses everything from ancient Greek philosophy and the origin of theater to our current predilection to bad-mouthing our friends the minute they get out of the car. While some of the humor is topical, very little is geo-specific, so that the show will appeal to both New Yorkers and tourists alike.

Spanning the globe in breakneck fashion, Quinn acutely comments on, among other subjects, the reasoning behind the Holy Roman Empire, the drug cultures of long-ago South America (one of the show's funniest segments), England's obsession with France, China's predilection for overachievement, and the mystery of why no one emigrates to Canada. (In doing, he also displays a facility for foreign accents that might even make Meryl Streep a tad jealous.)

Yet Quinn -- who seems more comfortable with this material on Broadway than he did downtown --isn't out to give some dry or didactic diatribe. He engages the audience at every turn by constantly drawing parallels to modern-day society and our everyday behavior. (There's even a funny and unexpected Jersey Shore reference in one segment.) His point is, in the end, we American's haven't come such a long way, baby. And woe be the society that doesn't believe that history repeats itself.

As might be expected, however, the show is not for the thin-skinned, as Quinn "insults" practically every nationality and religion. Nor is it for those averse to the use of four-letter words, which Quinn peppers liberally throughout the evening. (If the frequent muttering of the f-bomb doesn't bother you, bringing the teens isn't an altogether bad idea!) However, Quinn also exudes an everyman quality that allows some of his more inflammatory statements to seem less obnoxious (and more truthful) than they otherwise might in other hands -- and makes this Story one worth listening to.


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