While stand-up comedian Colin Quinn’s latest show is called Small Talk, he really wants to tell us about how people define themselves today. He laments that “small talk is down 87 percent,” but this may be due to the pandemic where we have gotten out of the habit. “We’re the country of personality and free speech” but we don’t teach these important qualities. Conversation taught us to cooperate and learn to “tolerate people that don’t like you.” HR is now the villain of the piece with the goal of stamping out people’s real personalities.
Quinn believes that social media is allowing people to give opinions all the time even when the rest of us don’t want to hear it. Like schizophrenics we now carry two billion people’s voices in our heads. And from the time we are little, we now define things in terms of emojis and memes. Because of SnapChat, FaceTime, and the Internet we have lost tone, volume and manners which define communications. Social media has blurred our real selves as you can both hide and create new personas.
And although we think we are politically intelligent, “it’s just all criticism all the time.” Both the left and the right are guilty of this. Blame Steve Jobs for some of this. By giving everyone a computer he unleashed a Pandora’s box. The Seven Deadly Sins have gone digital. Our ideas about immigration, abortion, gun control, global warming are now paltry opinions. Quinn doesn’t have much faith in our future due to the way we ended our 20th century. What will future generations say about us? He has a clever but depressing answer about that.
Small Talk, like its title suggests, is less unified than Quinn’s earlier shows. He also uses its format to wander from topic to topic, seemingly randomly without much structure. It allows him to focus on his pet peeves which seem to be the real topic of the show. While some of his earlier shows were big on humor, this one is more interested in provoking thoughts than laughs.
As directed by James Fauvell, much of the presentation seems scattershot, references to President Joe Biden lead to remarks on Ben Franklin and Bill Gates. Quinn’s delivery seems offhand and his gravelly voice like a man sitting opposite you at a table with a drink in his hand. Zoë Hurwitz’s set design with its many chalk boards plot out the topics but much of it is in Greek which only becomes clear if you go home and google the translations. They are also in no particular order so they do not suggest the structure of the show. Dressed in rumpled clothes and sneakers, Colin Quinn could not be more at home on the stage of the Lucille Lortel Theatre. However, the import of Small Talk is somewhat different that his other shows and may not appeal to all of his fans.
Colin Quinn: Small Talk (Januaray 6 – February 11, 2023)
Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, between Bleecker and Hudson Streets, Greenwich Village, in Manhattan
Limited engagement extension: March 30 – May 6, 2023 at Greenwich House, 27 Barrow Street at Seventh Avenue South, in Manhattan
For tickets, visits http://www.ColinQuinnShow.com
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission