Being dazzling and dismaying at the very same time!
By Myra Chanin
Let’s do dazzling first. Mike Birbiglia’s latest, The New One, is one of the two best one-man shows I’ve seen in my longer-than-I-prefer-to-admit life. Wanna know the runner-up? I can’t think of it off the top of my head, but admitting it exists demonstrates a judicious display of tact. It probably was one of the handful of one-man musings previously performed by the one and the same irresistibly adorable Mike Birbiglia.
Birbiglia’s an amazingly honest and truthful storyteller, a writer person who’s been in the “joke business” for about 20 years. He’s mastered the creation of humorous concepts along with a nuanced, good natured unhurried delivery that resonated with a couldn’t-be-any-more-diverse audience. Granted that nowadays, audiences tend to be more distinct than diverse, but I watched and heard a theater filled with young, old and many in the middle, burst out with peal after peal of honest laughter as they recognized their own thoughts and experiences in Birbiglia’s shared observations and life.
So, what could be dreadful, let alone dismaying about The New One? Even though its performance schedule has been extended up to August 28th, seats were practically all grabbed up (gasp! gasp!) before opening night. I just checked the website and found a total of 20 available seats between now and August 26. So, if you enjoy laughing a lot, let your fingers do the buying ASAP. Does this mean that there are no tickets available even for ready money? Ah, there’s the rub. In America there are always tickets available for lotsa ready money. The scalper sites I’ve checked had not a lot, but really good seats priced between $900-$1000. But not to worry, The New One will be around for a while. Is it Broadway bound? Probably, but I personally think Birbiglia’s better in a smaller, more intimate space … at least until Netflix grabs his latest.
Uh oh. The New York Times reviewer, a woman, loved the first half, which was just really old time classic uncomplicated LOL funny. But when Birbiglia’s life became complex and his story telling became comprehensively darker and detailed, she took umbrage not at his behavior but at his thoughts and feelings! She was furious that he didn’t feel or think – and, even worse, admitted not feeling or thinking – the way a feminist fascist thought he should.
The performance starts with a love affair between Birbiglia and his couch. He’s a happily married man, married to a poet, who acts in opposition to his own pre-announced judgement and desires and despite his body’s byzantine failings, fathers a baby. The fact that the topsy-turvy turns created in his household by “the new one,” made him think about leaving, disturbed the NYT reviewer enough to make her consider filing for a divorce. I’m never shocked at masculine behavior. We all know why they were created. To lift heavy rocks and knock up anything in sight and often they can’t manage to do even that.
By his journey’s end, the reluctant sperm provider had worked his way up to full-fledged doting Dad. For me it was a done deal from the beginning. I cannot imagine any funny storyteller leaving a person that presented him/her with such a wealth of new material!
Birbiglia’s a rare bird and he’s not one of a kind in what he feels and how he responds. I could see he received the most gratifying kind of laughter along with nods of recognition for being able to so adroitly admit what lots of others in the crowd felt … and always kept secret. Birbiglia’s smart. He has stage presence. His measured pacing is honed to get the biggest response from the stories he tells. He covers all the bases in his very precise commentary. Pretty much every show he’s taken cross country has been a hit from Boise to Terre Haute to New York City … and on Netflix too.
If you’re a regular human being, go see The New One. I think you’ll enjoy it tremendously. If you’re a feminist fascist, go see it and try to control your dark side. He’s clean … not sexless, just clinical. I’m sure you’ll find Birbiglia giving you plenty that’ll tickle your funny bone too.
My compliments Seth Barrish for directing the excruciatingly funny pace and pauses and to Beowulf Boritt, the brilliant but simple set designer – Mike Birbiglia’s brother from another mother – for creating an innocuous set that supplies a big bang at the exactly right moment One caveat, Birbiglia sometimes whispers at crucial moments when he should be closer to the mic.
Photo: Joan Marcus
TheNewOne.com Until August 26, but pretty much sold out at
The Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
New York, NY 10014