Quinn in Small Talk. (Photo: Monique Carboni)
Colin Quinn: Small Talk
Quinn is no stranger to the weird, wacky and often contradictory elements of
human behavior. In fact, heís made a career of exposing our foibles, as well as
our illusions. His latest one-man show, Colin Quinn: Small Talk, delivers
his singular critique. †
off-Broadway at the historic Lucille Lortel Theater, Quinn takes on social
isolation, social media, technology and the fall of man. And much of what binds
us, in navigating modern life, is small talk.
talk is intimate. Itís an acknowledgment. Itís like two ships that signal
each other in the ocean. Ö Thatís small talk. Itís how we unite by common
experience in under a
paragraph. Because we're not
robots, yet. Weíre on our way. Between phones, air pods and self-checkout,
small talk is down 87%,Ē the former SNL vet laments.
is why he advised parents to teach their kids how to small talk, worried that
preschoolers are behind the curve. ďTeach them to walk in and be like: ĎIs it me or is this bus
driver a little off?í That probably gets a 90% success rate.Ē
advice is delivered at lightning speed in a bluff, gruff manner ó a Quinn
history, he notes the various changes, including political, that necessitated
and created the opportunities for small talk. And he expounds on its importance
as part of our social contract, whether itís directed at our apartment
neighbors or office colleagues. The connection, however seemingly trivial, is
vital to bonding. Or to developing what he deems an essential trait:
for Quinn, thatís a tricky prospect.
is who the people that know you think you are. Your reputation is who the
people who donít know you think you are. Your social-media profile is who you think you
are, and your browser history is who you are.Ē
a guaranteed laugh line. Every audience member knows itís true. And truth, for
Quinn, is what civilization demands, but so rarely delivers.
he embarks on an 80-minute observation and education all rolled into one.† He
instructs. He challenges. He entertains. Quinn says he can teach us small talk and
he can teach us banter. But we canít learn it from the internet, which he rails
against in ways both humorous and telling.
short, weíre losing our cues.
itís spilled over into politics, which is now a steel-cage match fought online,
per Quinn, by two cults: the Left and the Right. The Right is a combo of David
Koresh compound meets Jimmy Buffet concert. The Left is like the Manson family.
It speaks beautiful words ó truth, love, equality ó but the minute they donít
get their way, itís ďkill the pigs.Ē
it to Quinn, heís not afraid to challenge anyone.
previous solo shows, including The
New York Story, which nailed the idiosyncrasies of immigrant
groups, and Red State Blue
State, which took on political hypocrisy, Quinn is a master of
detail. He notices the nuances of behavior ó and understands that progress is
predicated on pretending to be aware of expectations, even if we fail to
and always funny, Small Talk is his latest foray into the absurdities of
he would benefit from modulating his pacing. Sometimes, the lines whiz by without
his taking a breath. The changes in tone and volume he advocates would be helpful
ZoŽ Hurvitz created
the simple, effective set design; James Fauvell directed.
overarching message is clear: In a world that refuses to acknowledge truth or
reality, Colin Quinn is a savvy, much-needed messenger. And he always leaves
you wanting more.†
Quinn: Small Talk,
Lucille Lortel Theater, 121 Christopher St.
time: 80 minutes, no intermission, through Feb. 11