By Tulis McCall
Mike Birbiglia is an exquisite story teller. He plots his tale like a cartographer. This will go here and this will go there. Up here is a waterfall and everyone will want to hang there for awhile so we will need provisions. WE will move on to… and so on and so forth. In his latest Show, The New One, he leads the tour not only on the ground, but several layers above and below. This is one of those shows that, when it concludes you automatically think back to where it started and trace the path.
You don’t notice the path when you are on it because you are having so good a time that all you care about is the next word or image that will fall out of Birbiglia’s mouth. Now, I cannot get too specific about the content of the show because that would give away the whole thing, and you, dear reader, do not want me to do that. I assure you.
This show is like the Fun House at the local amusement park, which, in my case, was an illusion. It was not fun. It was dark and scary and made for hormonally charged teenagers for giggling and grabbing. I was around 10 when I went in for the one and only time – so it was just scary. THIS Birbiglia Fun House is the exact opposite, and you don’t have to be hormonally charged in case you are wondering.
I can tell you there is a story within the story, and that it is about his couch. His couch is the center of his life. It cradles and protects him and his marriage like nothing else can. Here he eats pizza until he is unconscious. Here he cuddles with his wife of 10 years. They cannot do this so much in bed because of his sleep disorder, well known from his previous show and movie, Sleepwalk With Me. The more public story here is that of becoming a parent. He lists his 7 reasons for not wanting to mess with his own gene pool and pass it on to an innocent bystander. These run from the assessment of his mortal coil to the fact that he has a cat. Period. He didn’t want the cat, and now he has one. That should be enough extra personalities in his day.
And finally there is the fact that he loves his life – most of it. And he LOVES his marriage. Just the way it is. Why mess with success?
Children can be a liability – let’s face it. They hold people down. They could be the biggest reason that women get 21 cents less on the dollar. They don’t sleep. On the other hand, people who have them encourage other people to have them. Is this “come on in, the water’s fine” or “misery loves company”? Who knows? Is he in or is he ain’t? this is the main path that Birbiglia trods.
Birbiglia sends us into the stratosphere howling at his observations, and brings us to a full stop when he wants to drop deeper into what it means to be a man on the verge of changing his life f-o-r-e-v-e-r. He examines all of it. And going along for the ride is an experience not to be missed. The way life is not to be missed. Get it?
Head to the box office NOW.
The New One by Mike Birbiglia, Directed by Seth Barrish
Through Aug. 26 at Cherry Lane Theater, Manhattan; 866-811-4111, thenewone.com. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes.