nytheatre.com review by Michael Criscuolo
July 22, 2006
Taxi Stories is a charming solo show written and performed by David O'Shea, in which the author/actor recounts tales from his seven-year tenure as a New York City cab driver. This isn't your mama's New York, though: this is the Ed Koch New York of 1977-1985, when homeless people slept on cardboard in front of the Apollo Theatre, the Upper West Side was still "bohemian," and "Pac-Man" was a brand new video game. Needless to say, O'Shea has some colorful stories.
O'Shea and director Lee Costello present Taxi Stories very simply. O'Shea comes on stage with a folder of papers under his arm, sits down in front of a music stand, sets himself up, and tells his stories, getting up and moving only when he needs to (which is rarely). This is a wise decision: O'Shea is such a natural and gifted storyteller—and a genuinely likable personality—that he doesn't need much embellishment to jazz things up. The appropriately mood-setting light changes that accompany each new story are all he requires. Otherwise, his easygoing, friendly manner carries Taxi Stories.
Now, about those stories: he's got some good ones. Like the one about the guy who paid his fare with a fish he'd just caught in the Hudson River. Or, the one about O'Shea's fortuitous encounter with William Styron's real life inspiration for the title character in his novel, Sophie's Choice. There are also a couple of choice road rage tales, including a funny and harrowing slow-as-molasses rush hour car chase: "We could've run faster, but no one thinks to get out of the car," O'Shea observes. Only in New York, people.
The best thing about Taxi Stories, though, is O'Shea's vivid evocation of a now-bygone New York. Anyone wanting a real taste of the city that served as the backdrop for movies like Taxi Driver, Annie Hall, and The Warriors will find it here. For native New Yorkers who were around during that time (like myself), the show will be a walk down Memory Lane. Today's New York may be safer, but Taxi Stories reminds us of a time when the city's danger and unpredictability were part of its charm.