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2016 FringeNYC Review: ‘Cabtivist’

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After listening to John McDonagh’s hilarious reminiscences about his life as a New York cabbie, you’ll be convinced that few jobs are as rife with comic material. Born and raised in Queens, the son of Irish immigrants, McDonagh graduated high school in 1973, enlisted in the army, and after completing his military service, got his hack license. He thought he’d drive a cab for a couple of years, but, he says, “years turned into decades” and, luckily for the audience, those decades of experiences turned into a laugh-a-minute solo show.

John McDonagh. Photo by Colby Tarsitano.

John McDonagh. Photo by Colby Tarsitano.

But Cabtivist isn’t just about McDonagh’s 35 years behind the wheel of a taxi or the interesting fares he picked up along the way. It’s about the relatable life of a contemporary Everyman (having to work long hours to make a decent living, knowing that the horses drawing carriages in Central Park are treated better than cabbies). It’s an informal history lesson about how the city has changed in his lifetime (his recitation of the acronyms used in some of New York’s gentrified neighborhoods is especially funny). And it’s about his commitment to socio-political activism (as a long-time supporter of the Irish republican movement and an adamant opponent of the US Republican party).

McDonagh recounts all of it with tongue-in-cheek humor, spot-on observations, and an engaging familiarity that will keep you in stitches, nodding in agreement, and feeling like you’ve just had a personal conversation with an old friend.

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Directed by Kira Simring with a fast-paced informal tone, the one-hour performance is part autobiography, part stand-up routine, part PowerPoint presentation, part Irish tradition of storytelling, and 100% entertaining. As a result of his wit, insight, and daring, it comes as no surprise that McDonagh moved out of the cab and into the spotlight, as a reality TV star on the BBC’s Crash Course, a guest on Fox News, and a WBAI radio talk-show host, as well as a popular playwright and performer. Cabtivist is just the latest of this regular guy’s many successes.

Running Time: Approximately 60 minutes, with no intermission.

Cabtivist plays through Saturday, August 27, 2016, performing at The Huron Club at the Soho Playhouse – 15 Vandam Street, in New York City. Purchase tickets online.

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