By Joseph Hurley
"Long Story Short: A History of the World in 75 Minutes" Starring Colin Quinn, Directed by Jerry Seinfeld • at the 45 Bleecker Street Theater. Through Sept. 4, 2010.
Colin Quinn doesn't beg his capacity audiences to love him or even to follow his frequently complicated, often sober train of thought. He doesn't need to. Viewers who see his brisk, intelligent show, "Long Story Short: History of the World in 75 Minutes," are solidly with him from word one.
It may come as something of a pleasant surprise to learn that the show's director is Jerry Seinfeld, who shares Quinn's impressive gifts for the productive and efficient organization of material. Seinfeld limits his program credit to a mere seventeen words, most of them dealing with his wife and children.
The affable, Brooklyn-bred Quinn's show has, from the start, attracted an alert and responsive crowd, obviously delighted to trot along with him as he makes his wandering way through the checkered story of mankind.
The comic actor's first one-man show, "Sanctifying Grace," began off-Broadway in 1994, and then, renamed "Colin Quinn -- an Irish Wake," moved to Broadway for a run at the Helen Hayes Theatre.
Intelligent and articulate as he is, Quinn, an outstanding "Saturday Night Live" alumnus, might do well to seek out more frequent New York appearances. His audiences for "Long Story Short" seem so quick-witted that at times they almost appear to be a mite ahead of him.
The stage at 45 Bleecker is framed by huge maps on either side of the performing area, and before Quinn appears, the image of a slowly spinning globe turns center stage. The only objects on stage are a spectacularly ugly easy chair and a small table on which is perched a white mug, from which the actor drinks an impressive amount of water as the show progresses.
Playing before a well-executed background of classical slides and projections, Quinn wends his way through the ages, relieving himself of opinions including the possibility that Julius Caesar was the Mafia's original "made man," and that various imperialists and colonials had individual ways of ordering pizza, including methods which were fully capable of costing them their positions in life and politics.
Names as disparate as Ralph Nader and Mrs. Doubtfire, Lady Gaga and Ryan Seacrest, and even Stephen Hawking and Nick Nolte drift through Quinn's text, each one generally making its point for anybody who makes the connection, and then vanishing in haste.
Quinn's tongue is planted deep in his cheek much of the time, but there are times when he's very clearly speaking from the heart, which is when he's often at his very best.
On the other hand, he's of the opinion that a lot of human history was driven by contempt, as when the British arrogantly imposed the game of cricket on the colonial natives of Trinidad, who didn't understand it and seemed disinterested in learning to cope with it.
In its unpretentious way, the 75 swift-moving minutes of Colin Quinn's "Long Story Short" add up to one of the most rewarding shows in town. Quinn is a joy and a genuine treasure, not to be missed. We should see more of him, to be sure.