Review Roundup: What Did The Critics Think of Mike Birbiglia's THE NEW ONE?
Mike Birbiglia: The New One, a new comedy written and performed by Mike Birbiglia, is currently playing at the Cherry Lane Theatre, (38 Commerce Street) for a limited engagement. Mike Birbiglia: The New One is produced by Lucille Lortel Award-winning producers Joseph Birbiglia and Mike Lavoie.
The show officially opened last night. Let's see what the critics are saying...
Alexis Soloski, The New York Times: Mr. Birbiglia is a longtime comedian and more recently an indie film director and star ("Sleepwalk With Me," "Don't Think Twice"). He has a teddy-bear physique, a cheerful stage presence and a mumbling, stealth articulate voice - with a tendency to swallow the ends of his sentences like so many frosted snack cakes - that breeds instant intimacy. His genre-straddling shows mostly catalog an array of poor decisions: professional, romantic, somnambulant. His life-threatening sleepwalking disorder is no joke. Except of course it is. Everything feeds a genius blend of confessional and observational comedy. He is, to use a really unforgivable word, relatable.
Matt Windman, amNY: The 80-minute show focuses on Birbiglia's hesitant and bewildered transition into fatherhood, from being steadfast against having any children (he even delivers an extended list of reasons why he considers himself unfit to take care of a child) to his wife's pregnancy and the arrival of their daughter.
Parenthood is well-worn territory for comedians, but Birbligia makes the show fresh and revealing through direct storytelling, precise pacing and his trademark nice guy persona, in which he presents himself in a casual, affable and excited manner.
Allison Adato, Entertainment Weekly: A frequent contributor to This American Life, Birbiglia has narrative style that will be familiar to listeners of that public radio show. TAL creator Ira Glass (also a producer of The New One) has likened it to the structure of Fiddler on the Roof: An affecting story is at first funny, then sad, and finally profound. Given the miracle-of-life stuff, that is where we end up: Facing the deep and inevitable change that comes with parenthood. This is hardly a spoiler - it happens to everybody. And, to take nothing away from each laugh Birbiglia earns mining this territory, maybe his talent lies also in recognizing that we need to hear these stories over and over again. Who would believe them otherwise?
Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter: More than his choice of topics, it is Birbiglia's disarming amiability and sharp wit that makes the performer such a treasure. He draws you in with his seemingly casual style, making the audience feel like he's telling his story for the first time and just for them. When the revelations become intensely personal, he drops his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, forcing you to lean forward just to hear what he's saying. By the end of the evening, you feel less like an audience member than an old friend.
Raven Snook, TimeOut: Birbiglia's longtime director, Seth Barrish, pulls off a stupendous sight gag and maintains a flexible pace that allows the star to ad lib and slow down when necessary, though a joke is never far off. The show isn't groundbreaking in structure, style or substance: No, no, it's not Nannette. But the meticulous and evocative way he expresses himself makes The New One-like a newborn baby-special, unique and lovable.
Chloe Schama, Vogue: The actual performance is a romp-a perfectly paced ride through the indignities of early parenthood, especially for a father who finds himself sidelined for the most physical parts of parenting. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," Birbiglia admits, as he watches his wife give birth. "I guess I'll just write an email to everyone I've ever met. Which is really the chief responsibility of the dad. The mother births a double bowling ball out of her vagina and then the dad just knocks out an email."