Theater review by Jenna Scherer. Barrow Street Theatre (see Off Broadway). By Colin Quinn. Dir. Rebecca A. Trent. With Quinn. 1hr 10mins. No intermission.
Colin Quinn is no stranger to biting off big chunks of material and seeing how quickly he can chew. In 2010, the comedian took to Broadway with Long Story Short, which crammed the history of the whole damn world into 75 minutes. By comparison, Unconstitutional seems like a no-brainer: All he’s given himself to cover this time is the story of that tweenaged empire, the United States.
It’s clear right away that the gruff, cynical Quinn is, not so deep down, a big ol’ history nerd who just really loves his country. The former SNL Weekend Update host covers broad swaths of America’s heritage and politics by distilling our national story into one succinct metaphor: The U.S. is a bar, the founding fathers got hammered one night and wrote the Constitution, we’ve been drunkenly brawling ever since, and we’re only just now waking up to one whopper of a hangover. Along the way, he tackles such topics as presidential charisma, the persistence of racism, why George Washington was kind of a dick and why everyone should read the Constitution. He also airs his own uncategorizable political views: “I’m pro–gay marriage, pro-gun, pro–death penalty and pro-choice. What do they have in common? Anti-overcrowding.”
This one-man show could easily have been a stand-up special; director Rebecca A. Trent moves Quinn around the stage for no apparent reason. But I suspect it fell into the former category because, as pure comedy, Unconstitutional isn’t quite funny enough. Chuckle-inducing? Sure. But at least for me, Quinn never elicited genuine uproarious laughter. Like the guy at the bar who you feel bad tearing yourself away from, Unconstitutional is likable and entertaining enough, but ultimately a little dull.—Jenna Scherer