By Sandi Durell
Mike Birbiglia is a force of nature whether he is dubbed new or old! His wry, slow and direct delivery about life, his life in particular, is filled with a lot of what people think but don’t talk about, at least not in a theater to a packed house of strangers. He’s self-effacing and has no compunctions about sharing. This is one of the few times I found myself laughing sometimes uncontrollably . . . because I’m not much of a comic fan since I never understood why most comedians get laughs by resorting to spending most of their time on stage pouring out expletives. But not Birbiglia, he just has to refer to his own day to day life and finds himself laughing . . . taking his audience on the joy (and sometimes not so joyous) ride. That part reminding me of Jackie Mason who so often delivered jokes and laughed at himself and what he said. I liked him too.
What’s particularly new with comic/actor/storyteller Birbiglia is that he’s found himself in a Broadway setting at the Cort Theatre, rather than his usual off-Broadway haunts.
So, Mike hates kids, didn’t want any, is happily married to his wife Jen (whom he calls Chloe?). She’s a poet and from the sound of it, has the same soft direct speech pattern as hubby. Mike is particularly attached to his humble couch that wraps him in comfort and pizza, even if he and Jen can’t agree on its color. But when his brother Joe begins to challenge his lifestyle telling him to be cool he needs to have a kid, ‘cause Joe already has two. For Mike, being around them makes him feel unconscious – kids are like a disease that friends want you to have. Mike’s delivery is as smooth as silk.
Poor Mike also suffers from some physical illnesses and somehow we find ourselves listening to his woes about his visit to the urologist for a cystoscopy, realizing he might as well get a two-fer, getting his prostate checked at the same time. Of course, his explanation was a lot more graphic. And, aside from this, he’s type II Diabetes, maybe has Lyme disease, has some kind of sleep disorder – yup, walks in his sleep – and, poor guy, feels devoid of joy. But he loves his wife, which sounds like it can now be problematic since he sleeps in a pod. Yes, he had a zippered blanket specially made that he demonstrates to show how it holds him still so he can’t get up and walk around in his sleep.
But back to matters at hand, kids . . . the current ones should live through their term of life, but now it’s time to make sure new ones aren’t born. According to Mike, people aren’t great, good is rare. . . great . . . a fantasy! And we’re off to Amsterdam and the red light district. . .
But, looks like brother and wife have finally put on enough subtle pressure so that after 8 months of now trying to conceive, and the funniest explanation of all those swimming sperm and his encounter at the fertility doctor taking lessons in masturbating, Jen is finally pregnant, which only brings him back to his focus . . . he hates children giving a detailed account of what happens to their relationship post baby, whom he refers to as the ‘monkey’ they hand to him, kinda resembling ET which is why they name her Una.
It’s all very funny especially as Una isn’t a baby who sleeps and his sleep blanket for his REM disorder now even more essential if it weren’t for the cat Maggie locked in the bedroom with him scratching his face. And his comfy couch, it’s now been taken over by Jen and Una . . . he now understands why Dads leave!
So that’s enough since there is so much more but I’m not going to be a spoiler. Just go and laugh your socks off at a very relevant Mike Birbiglia ‘The New One’ to find where this is going unless you’ve already gotten a peek into former shows at the Cherry Lane or his book “Sleepwalk With Me.” Even so, if you’re a fan, which I now am, I’d be happy hearing him again and again.
Directed by Seth Barrish with additional writing by wife Jennifer Hope Stein and set design by Beowulf Boritt.
Photos: Joan Marcus
Cort Theatre 148 West 48 Street, NYC – www.thenewone.com thru January 20, 2019, run time one hour, 20 minutes.