John McDonagh calls his solo show “Cabtivist” because he’s been driving a New York City taxicab for 35 years, and because he’s been a political activist for almost as long. Maybe he’s named it as well after a more recent vocation of his, which one might label a celebritist – a pursuer of celebrity.
McDonagh is an amusing storyteller, and he’s in prime form at the beginning of his hour-long monologue when he explains how after military service, he thought he would become a cabbie for at most five years until he figured out what else to do with his life. He then projects his hack licenses over the years, showing how the heavily bearded Irish-American youth from Queens turned bit by bit into the clean-shaven, pleasantly jowly family man in front of us (at one point introducing his wife and daughter seated at the nearest table.) He goes into a comic riff explaining how much worse off cabdrivers are than the “unionized horses” in Central Park; muses on how absurd the gentrifiers’ habit of renaming neighborhoods has become when he recalls a passenger asking to be taken to “SoBro” (which turned out to be the South Bronx); and recounts how he dealt with a homeless woman who refused to leave his cab.
Then we are off to the activist stories, and there are a couple of funny ones, such as the time during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York he offered a free cab ride to the airport to any delegate who wanted to fly to Iraq to join the fighting. He projects a video of his making the offer on a Cable TV news show.
The activist stories tend to share this kind of publicity component, but the two longest stories by far in “Cabtivist” leave the activism behind and launch fully into his experiences as an almost-celebrity – when he brought Stephen Fry to a Queens clubhouse full of Goodfellas for a segment on British television; and how he almost became a contestant on “The Amazing Race.”
McDonagh has a gift for finding the humor in any experience he’s had, but I would have preferred that “Cabtivist” tell us more about his life as a cabbie, which is far less humdrum than the would-be celebrities we hear from every day.
The Huron Club
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