Arts, History

Colin Quinn Makes a “Long Story Short”

Colin Quinn in "Long Story Short"

Colin Quinn, you are funny.

I already knew that, but I had it reconfirmed for me on the opening night of Quinn’s one man show, “Long Story Short,” at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre on Broad Street. Fresh from Broadway, and making its Philadelphia debut, this 75 minute tour-de-farce of history bites where it’s supposed to and makes short work of some of history’s biggest moments.

And keeps the audience laughing throughout the entirety of the evening.

Quinn’s point, made with his trademark raspy-voiced rat-a-tat delivery, is that in all the years humanity has been evolving, we haven’t changed all that much: “With all the progress, where’s the progress?” he asks early in the show.

He points out that “our ancestors weren’t the ones who starved to death waiting their turn in line for food.”  In other words, survival of the fittest doesn’t mean survival of the nicest.

Directed by Jerry Seinfeld (I looked all around the theater in the hopes that he is a hands-on director who was perhaps directing from the seat next to me; no luck), the show’s style of humor reflects the sensibility of the man best known for his show about nothing. This time, however, he’s steering a show about all things universal.

No history stone is left unturned: politics, philosophy, psychology, arts & literature. Quinn touches on all of them. And the points he makes are the kind that have you going, “Oh, yeah…” Like his take on democracy, for instance:

“It’s sad. Marxism didn’t work. Communism didn’t work. Capitalism doesn’t work.  Nothing works. Even democracy doesn’t work. Democracy—the greatest form of government and we have two choices for who’s our leader. In fascism you only have one choice. That’s great. We have one more choice than the worst form of government.”

It’s sageness like this that keeps the audience holding fast for the next pithy piece of insight wrapped in humor to be delivered by the craggy-faced man pacing the stage.  It’s actually a bit like sitting around with a funny friend, the one who minored in history and knows how to draw the connections between the follies of early civilizations and our own modern messed-up universe.

As Quinn makes perfectly clear, we have always been searching for the truth of our existence, or as he puts it: “Don’t judge me by what I do…judge me by what I’m telling you when I’m doing the opposite.”

“Long Story Short” is here in town through July 10th, and it’s worth an evening of your time.  For more information, check out The Philadelphia Theatre Company’s website:

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