a The New One | a Curtainup Review
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A CurtainUp Review
The New One

People with kids are miserable — Mike Birbiglia
Mike Biriglia (Photo: Joan Marcus)
Mike Birbiglia is a terrific story teller, comedian, author, filmmaker, director— a wonderfully entertaining guy who pulls no punches about the way he feels about his life, his career, his numerous ailments, phobias, anxieties, relationships, and just about anything that seems to intrude and/or disrupt his own understandably self-serving space. No doubt he knows how to make an audience laugh as he did in his previous shows like Thank God For Jokes and Sleepwalk With Me. In the new one, aptly called The New One now at the Cherry Lane Theatre, he is sharing with us the dread, the trauma and the resistance of becoming a father. It's a role he claims to have avoided for reasons that he makes perfectly clear and mostly comical.

That he was able to meet and marry Jen, a woman who apparently could deal or actually embrace his peculiarities, even to serve him lovingly as an unregistered, unauthorized practical nurse, is more than commendable. When he is home in their apartment, she has the job of zipping him up in a special sleeping bag so he won't be tempted to walk in his sleep and jump out the window. He has a very real sleep disorder that you should let him describe in all its astonishing detail. He also has no intention of keeping his serious bouts with cancer and diabetes and some other below the belt line issues a secret. Instead he wants us to know how he has braved one alarming condition after another and coped with them without making excuses. In short, he has learned to turn them into an on-going and mostly hilarious story of his life. . .so far.

This latest episode in the life of this lapsed Catholic who admits that he loves nothing more than collapsing on his sofa after a tour is mostly concerned with the unsettling news of impending fatherhood, a condition or rather a state he was intent on avoiding at all cost.

There are really funny digressions of his experiences as single man in Amsterdam's Red Light District and to other journeys off-the-beaten-path (imagine this last as a double entendre). But how Jen actually gets pregnant is a good portion of his story as told with jokes that spring so naturally from his narrative that we are hardly aware of the set-up.

Under the unobtrusive direction of Seth Barrish Birbiglia ambles with ease about the stage. There is an Oriental carpet, a sofa and a few props but there is also a coup de theatre that is a stunner and that gives this eighty minute solo an unexpected jolt with its crafty wizardry. This grand visual comes just at the right time when we think that all of Birbiglia's funny spiel about not wanting to be a father has run its course. He does run through a litany of reasons and excuses that should absolve him from all responsibilities. We also begin to see how it is programmed to backfire. The joy of his narrative is that he unconsciously (but of course consciously) becomes open and receptive to a life he wanted to avoid like the plague.

There are times when I could sense the audience wanting to shout back at him disapprovingly as he seems to be enforcing and reinforcing his own neurotically enabled reasons for not changing or adjusting to the inevitable. One of the funniest episodes has him sharing what it was like to be present at the birth of his daughter and not knowing how to respond. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do." Birbiglia is so good at this deception that his inevitable epiphany comes as a wonderful surprise and a heartwarming conclusion to another unique chapter in this very talented man's life.

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The New One
Written and Performed by Mike Birbiglia
Scenic Design: Beowulf Boritt
Lighting Design: Aaron Copp
Sound Design: Leon Rothenberg
Production Stage Manager: Lauren Cavanaugh
Running Time: 1 hour 20 minutes no intermission
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street.
Tickets: $61- $81
Performances: Tuesday - Sunday at 7:30pm, Saturday matinee at 4 pm.
From 07/18/18 Opened 08/02/18 Ends 08/26/18
Review by Simon Saltzman based on 4 pm performance on 08/11/18

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