BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
“What is it with the Constitution?” wonders Colin Quinn at the beginning of his new solo show.
“Everybody is an expert even though none of us have read it,” asserts Quinn. “It gave us our attitude. Every real American has a personality that comes out of the Constitution.
“Every time someone in authority confronts you and you think, ‘Who died and made you king?’ That’s the Constitution.”
Now performing off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theater, where his “Colin Quinn Unconstitutional” opened on Thursday, Quinn appears in fine, typically curmudgeonly form. For some 70 minutes, Quinn humorously holds forth on some of the more important articles of the Constitution and how they relate to our troubled society today.
Claiming that the Constitution was “written during a four-month drunken binge” back in 1787, Quinn ironically suggests that the document is something of an intoxicated promise to America that it really no longer can keep.
The Kardashians, Bruce Springsteen, Reese Witherspoon and other pop luminaries, along with many U.S. Presidents from Washington to Obama, are mentioned by Quinn in his thoughtfully funny rap regarding contemporary matters such as race, class, the judicial system and free speech. The hearty laughter that results from his remarks is fairly continuous, even when Quinn coolly takes aim at the NRA and the Second Amendment.
Confidently roaming around the intimate stage, Quinn utters his casually expletive-riddled remarks in rasping Brooklyn accents and with a straightforward, somewhat grumpy manner that contributes to his local appeal as a regular Noo Yorka kind of guy whose satirical viewpoint makes sense. Quinn’s scowling Irish-American mug and his bar room bonhomie makes him a droll fellow whose metro area persona is comfortably familiar to New York audiences, if not the rest of the nation.
Directed by Rebecca A. Trent, Quinn’s engaging performance flags a bit towards the conclusion before he suddenly wraps up his discourse on a bitter note. The performer might find a moment to get a glass of water or otherwise somehow boost his energy. The stark lighting, by Sarah Lurie, needs further refinement. Music might also contribute something to the general effectiveness of the production.
For all of that, “Colin Quinn Unconstitutional” offers the audience a wryly funny consideration of the idealistic federal platform upon which all of us uneasily dwell.
“Colin Quinn Unconstitutional” continues through June 3 at the Barrow Street Theater, 27 Barrow St., New York. Call (212) 868-4444 or visit www.colinquinnunconstitutional.com.