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Colin Quinn Preaches to a Very Particular Choir in Red State Blue State

Quinn brings his new stand-up act at the Minetta Lane Theatre.

Colin Quinn stars in Red State Blue State under the direction of Bobby Moresco.
(© Monique Carboni)

In his latest off-Broadway stand-up show, Colin Quinn, the former SNL "Weekend Update" anchor, tackles contemporary politics.

It's a broad subject that's ripe for thoughtful, hard-nosed commentary, the kind that dissects the positives and negatives found on both sides of the proverbial aisle. In fact, the title of this new solo comedy at the Minetta Lane Theatre, Red State Blue State, intimates just that. Like so many other new theatrical works stemming from current events, though, Quinn ends up preaching to a very particular choir. And that makes this 70-minute set all the more disappointing.

Quinn sets a tone at the beginning that never wavers for the duration. In his famously gruff Brooklynese, he delivers a bit about how the two-party system has failed. "Three hundred fifty million people, two parties," he says. "We have fifteen genders. Four bathrooms, and two parties." That's the joke.

It becomes rapidly clear that Quinn isn't really talking to the wide-ranging political spectrum his title promises. He's talking to the suspicious masses — the ones who don't understand social media or contemporary sexual mores, or why people call Columbus Day "Indigenous Peoples' Day." It's not geared to the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez supporters; honestly, it's not even geared to the Trump supporters. Quinn is talking to a very specific audience somewhere in the middle that doesn't really understand how politics works, but take what Jake Tapper and Piers Morgan say as gospel.

In short, Red State Blue State isn't barbed enough to be offensive nor incisive enough to be funny. More surprising is Quinn's unsteady delivery — for someone who's been doing stand-up for nearly 40 years and has written and performed multiple solo shows of this nature, he never really seems sure of himself onstage. He stumbles over his lines with unexpected frequency, and on more than a few occasions, his ability to get through his own show seemed a little perilous.

Perhaps a director more assured than Bobby Moresco (Oscar-winning co-screenwriter of Crash) could have massaged the material a little better — it's telling that Quinn's better shows were staged by a fellow master of piquant observational humor, Jerry Seinfeld. Red State Blue State leaves us with a ho-hum sigh, rather than the belly laugh we so desperately want.

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