Colin Quinn's sly shortcut through history

The Taj Mahal is one stop on Colin Quinn's sobering, comical, 75-minute tour of world civilizations.
The Taj Mahal is one stop on Colin Quinn's sobering, comical, 75-minute tour of world civilizations. (CAROL ROSEGG)
Posted: July 02, 2011

Colin Quinn's solo show Long Story Short, visiting Philadelphia Theatre Company's Suzanne Roberts Theatre after an extended Broadway run, makes good on its title.

In the first 10 minutes, Quinn connects the dots between tragic heroine Antigone and tragic whatever-she-is Snooki of Jersey Shore.

He aims to explain why the jerks - rather than the meek - shall inherit the Earth. Always have, always will.

Quinn, former cohost of MTV's Remote Control, ex-Saturday Night Live cast member, and stand-up comic, works his stage in disarming everyguy style: loose-limbed, off-the-cuff, accented as much by his knowing smirk as his fluency in Brooklynese.

His 75-minute tour of civilizations Western, Eastern, and in between takes frequent scenic detours into the neighborhood of director Jerry Seinfeld's brand of observational comedy. For example, Didja ever notice that the animals found in your supermarket's freezer aren't the ones who can fight back?

Every stop on this journey - illustrated by David Gallo's set design, which includes a huge video screen on which a globe whirls its way through computer-generated images of significant historical landmarks - reinforces his point. The Taj Mahal, the Colosseum, Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, all symbols of a hard-core work ethic, usually imposed.

Quinn can't help but let his own inner nice guy take over, softening his pessimistic message with tales of friends who assert their dominance in annoying ways. He's been forthcoming about his own struggles as an underdog and occasional victim, particularly during visits to the Howard Stern show; clearly, he writes what he knows.

For all this weaving about, Quinn's tale reaches a pretty direct and sobering conclusion: Right now, the world looks like a bar at 3:30 a.m., and someone's spoiling for a fight.

But really, his thesis is that the world always looked this menacing. It's a man's world, it seems, unless you count France (that coquette), and he's talking alpha male, not omega, all the way back before those letters were invented, to the first pushy jerk in a cave.

It may not be news that humanity keeps refusing to learn from its mistakes, but delivered with a spoonful of sugar, that smirk, and plenty of laugh-out-loud ethnic jokes (Why does "Shalom" mean hello and goodbye? Because Jews are so used to getting kicked out of wherever they end up), he makes the medicine go down easy.


Additional performances:
Through July 10 at Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St. Tickets: $51-$65. Information: 215-985-0420 or www. PhiladelphiaTheatreCompany.org.

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