Monday, July 27, 2015

"The New York Story" - w/Colin Quinn (Review)

Colin Quinn has found his comfort zone - One Man Shows that convey his humorous observations on History, Race and Life in general. Long Story Short, Unconstitutional and his latest, The New York Story are all set in a theatre but are heavy on the Stand Up comedy-a genre that Quinn has long mastered-so they're a feast for the audience. 

With The New York Story, the focus is (obviously) on Manhattan and it's history centered around Colin's experience and filtered through his unique comedic lens. Every nationality that surrounded him in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn, from youth, adolescence and beyond, is represented (just as it was in Quinn's The Coloring Book, the inspiration for TNYS) in the show. CQ, as those of us in his "outer inner circle" offer refer to him, hilariously breaks down the particular nuances and behaviors of the "characters" he grew up with. The theme in his recent work has been that it's impossible to celebrate Diversity if we don't in fact acknowledge those traits that make us different, and nobody illustrates these characteristics better than Quinn. He weaves his way through just over an hour covering all the races and their attitudes and impact on him and the other residents of NYC. While doing this, he often nails not only the personality of each subject but the accent and cadence as well. It never comes off as racist or condescending because it's rooted in truth and painted with humor and he spares no mercy for his own nationality-the Irish. Every race and culture has it's own "voice" and Quinn hears and interprets better than anyone I've seen on stage or screen.

It's very common for "The Online World" as CQ calls it, to immediately creating the narrative of racism or being offended anytime these discussions are had, whether in jest or in casual discussion, and therein lies the bigger problem and why a "real conversation about race" is so challenging. We are all different and unique individually, of course, but there's no question our heritage, culture, Religion and background had a massive impact on our language and behaviors-to deny that is ludicrous. Quinn masterfully illustrates these particular variances comedically and simultaneously exposes the absurdity of pretending we are all the same. If we are going to celebrate diversity we have to remove the delusion that different cultures don't think and communicate in ways dissimilar to the our own.

One of the most endearing things about Quinn's own stage personality-whether performing Stand Up or a show like this-is his somewhat rushed/mumbled delivery and tendency to not finish a sentence. He will often jump to another topic when he thinks of one as well and although I have read recent reviews of The New York Story where they have labeled this a detriment I find it a strength and a unique signature. Would anyone tell Steven Wright "Hey listen, those are some great observations, but could you maybe speak a little faster and vary your pitch a bit?" A friend recently made the comment about Quinn that he's "hard to understand" and I wanted to beat him over the head with the French Baguette I was carrying in the grocery store, but of course I am not very impartial when it comes to CQ ;)

The New York Story is a riotous hour plus of vintage and modern Colin Quinn. He tells stories like few others can, he's not afraid to laugh at his own jokes a little and his personality is perfectly suited for infusing the required attitudes of his "subjects" in this particular show. The night I went there was a very diverse mix of fans in the theatre and the buzz outside was overwhelmingly positive (save for the older gentleman who felt CQ was a little too "abrasive" at times. I am sure he listened to NPR on the way home and all was right in his world again). There's a rumor that the show will be extended and that would be wonderful as everyone should go see it before Quinn, fresh off a successful book, movie and this show, gets so big that he's not as accessible. Hard to imagine, as he's one of the most down to Earth, likable and decent guys you'd ever meet, but he will be the first to tell you that's he's destined for bigger things. The guy deserves it, no question, with all his talent. I'd go far as to say he's the most talented human being of unspecified origin or Religion with undisclosed skin tone and unknown political orientation. Go see The New York Story and I'm sure you will agree.


The New York Story is playing into August at the Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC. Tickets can be found at their website @ 

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