Acclaimed comedian/storyteller Mike Birbiglia brings his new solo show to the Cherry Lane Theatre.
By: Patrick Christiano
August 11, 2018: In his most recent show, The New One, award-winning comedian, Mike Birbiglia, approaches a new subject with the same low-keyed verve and personally revealing style he displayed in his hysterical predecessors, Sleepwalk with Me and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend. Nathan Lane originally presented Birbiglia’s solo debut, Sleepwalk with Me, Off-Broadway at the Bleecker Street Theater in 2008 introducing him to New York City audiences in the process. That show went on to become a New York Times bestselling book and Sundance award-winning film of the same name. Since then Birbiglia has written and performed Thank God for Jokes, and My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, which received a Lucille Lortel Award, and now he is at the Cherry Lane, which he referred to as a “dream theatre.”
Birbiglia has a skill for mining humor from extremely personal stories that shouldn’t necessarily be funny and turning them into hysterical tears of laughter. The New One, which played a 40-city tour prior to the New York engagement at the Cherry Lane, is just as hilarious as his previous shows, and with-it Birbiglia reaches a new comic peek.
According to the show when he married his wife, the poet Jennifer Hope Stein, who also co-writes his material, he made it perfectly clear he didn’t, ever, want to have children and would never change his mind. They agreed on this. Fast-forward ten years and Jennifer has changed her mind. She wants a child and doesn’t think having baby would change the way they live their lives.
He, on the other hand, has a list of reasons why, he still, doesn’t want a child and right at the top is his continuing sleepwalking problem followed by a host of physical ailments as he approaches his 40-birthday. She ultimately convinces him, after he visits his brother and his new son, by telling him, “She knows he will be a good dad.”
In their efforts to conceive, they learn that Mike has a low sperm count which brings on a series of medical interventions, none of which are funny, but which Birbiglia, with his unique style, makes hysterical. When the baby finally arrives, it’s a girl named Oona, meaning “one” because he is not planning to have another, and the show turns considerably more serious giving Birbiglia even more challenging material to mine for laughter.
Like any great comedian Birbiglia is hard to categorize. When you are watching him, you are easily taken in by his low-keyed disarming style and his infectious grin. And despite his protestations you feel he is enjoying himself almost as much as you, which, with his timing, makes him even funnier. Birbiglia is a fresh and original voice that just gets better and better.
Seth Barrish, who has directed him in all of his New York shows, makes good use of the entire stage allowing Birbiglia to play off of the audience from several vantage points. Don’t miss The New One!
The New One is now playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St in the West Village through August 26, 2018. Running time: 80 minutes, with no intermission. Photography: Joan Marcus
This is a review of the off-Broadway premiere of The New One, which played a summer 2018 engagement at the Cherry Lane Theatre. The production has since transferred intact to Broadway’s Court Theatre, where it officially opened on November 11 for a limited run through January 20, 2019.