Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia; Directed by Seth Barrish
Produced by Joseph Birbiglia, Mike Lavoie, and Ira Glass
Off Broadway, Solo Show/Comedy
Runs through 8.26.18
Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street
by Lexi Orphanos on 8.2.18
Mike Birbiglia in The New One. Photo by Joan Marcus.
BOTTOM LINE: Mike Birbiglia's The New One proves that if you're funny (like really funny), you can sell a stand-up set full of tender emotion with flying colors.
The New One welcomes in Mike Birbiglia's continuing reign as a performer who perfectly straddles the worlds of stand-up comedy and touching monologue performance. As any longtime fan knows, Birbiglia's mind for storytelling that works at breakneck speeds sits on a body of someone "who's just about to start p90x and then doesn't." That is to say, the unassuming audience member might walk into The New One anticipating a joke machine and a buffoonish-John-C.-Reilly voice that he assigns to his subconscious, but the Birbiglia diehard will know that this man can make you cry sooner than he'll make you laugh.
Birbiglia begins the set by talking about his couch. Beds are pompous, refuse to touch the floor, and demand that a room be named after them. The humble couch greets you with open arms and ambiguous stains for a nap, a pizza, a murder documentary. He measures his relationship with his wife—and longtime subject of previous shows—Jen in movies watched on that couch, birthdays it has seen them through, and nights spent cuddled up after long months touring the country. He is, quite simply, proud of the things in his life that are his: his couch and his marriage.
However, everything changes when Jen suggests—using her "voice with a 600 thread count"—that she wants to have a baby, for which Birbiglia lists 7 reasons why this is a bad idea. Brace yourself for an intimate dissection of human conundrum. As the set continues, he shares with the audience how he ended up deciding to have a baby, getting "unnecessary ball surgery," and buying three kinds of pretzels for his pregnant wife. Despite their incessant fears as new parents, the two vow that this baby will not change their relationship; nay, this baby will not strip away their greatness.
This is when Oona, "the new one," is born. Her name literally translates to "One" and the condescending tone implied by the show's title is not incorrect. Mike and baby Oona are at odds with one another from the start because of his notorious REM Behavior Disorder. His famed sleepwalking had previously caused him to launch himself out of the window of a LaQuinta Inns & Suites, nearly killing himself. It's no surprise when his doctor deems it unsafe for him to sleep within reach of his baby, so the milquetoast man must sleep in a rudimentary dungeon of sorts, bound by a homemade fitted sheet with a head hole, and a door that deadbolts on the inside so as to not accidentally harm his daughter. To say that this "new one" changed his life is an understatement.
Previous works like Thank God for Jokes, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, and his feature film Don't Think Twice all capitalize on this tender combination that holds true throughout his craft. In previous productions, we've watched him learn to love himself, and love his wife; now, we get to watch him learn to love his daughter in the same way you learn to love a couch. If you're lucky enough to catch this sold-out run, you just might leave looking forward to the day when you get to step on your own new one's Legos; it just might be the ticket you've been waiting for.
(Mike Birbiglia: The New One plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, through August 26, 2018. Running time is 85 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Tuesdays through Fridays at 7:30; Saturdays at 4 and 7:30; and Sundays at 4. Tickets are $39 - $69 and are available at thenewone.com or by calling 866-811-4111.)
Mike Birbiglia: The New One is written and performed by Mike Birbiglia. Directed by Seth Barrish. Scenic Design by Beowulf Boritt. Lighting Design by Aaron Copp. Sound Design by Leon Rothenberg. Production Stage Manager is Lauren Cavanaugh. Production Management by TINC Productions. Consigliere is Mike Berkowitz. Additional writing by Jennifer Hope Stein.