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Review Roundup: What Do The Critics Think of Mike Birbiglia's THE NEW ONE? - All The Reviews!

By: Nov. 11, 2018
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Mike Birbiglia's The New One Image

The Broadway engagement of Mike Birbiglia's The New One, directed by Seth Barrish, officially opens tonight, November 11 at the Cort Theatre (138 West 48th Street).

Written by Mike Birbiglia, with additional writing by Jennifer Hope Stein, The New One is a new play directed by Seth Barrish (The Barrow Group) with set design for Broadway by Beowulf Boritt(Bernhardt/Hamlet, Come From Away), lighting design by Aaron Copp (Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center), and sound design by Leon Rothenberg (The Waverly Gallery).

Mike Birbiglia's The New One is produced on Broadway by Kevin McCollum, Iris Smith, Triptyk Studios, Chris and Crystal Sacca, Sing Out, Louise! Productions, JAM Theatricals, Ashley DeSimone, Jamie deRoy, Caroline Hirsch and Lucas McMahon. Ira Glass is Executive Producer and Joe Birbiglia is Associate Producer.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Mr. Birbiglia - who came to national attention with the stage and film versions of "Sleepwalk With Me," an autobiographical account of his dangerous nights with a sleep disorder - seems not only to occupy but also to absorb and transmute every inch of the Cort's naked stage. (Appropriately, there's more to Beowulf Boritt's bare set than first meets the eye.) He achieves this partly by pacing, pacing as he talks, in ever-widening circles and diagonals and loop-de-loops.

Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Under Seth Barrish's direction, THE NEW ONE keeps a steady, casual tone consistent with Birbiglia's genial, nice-guy persona. The 80-minute piece is very funny on a sweet, realistic level. The only moment of shear theatricality, a really good one, comes from set designer Beowulf Boritt. I'll leave it to the storytellers to present you with that one.

Bob Verini, Variety: With material this personal, it's hard not to wonder what it must be like for standups to make their way through life knowing that every moment is potential fodder for material. How do they react and cope in the now, while storing up future impressions and maintaining aesthetic distance? This Pirandellian balancing act, known to all creative types but especially tricky for the comic, might well be the subject of another incisive play. Take it away, Mike.

Thom Geier, The Wrap: When Birbiglia runs down a numbered list of his arguments against having kids, most revolve around his own insecurities and suspected shortcomings as a dad. "If we're being honest with ourselves, kids hold us back," he says, before edging into more charged waters. "My best example of this is the history of women." This is just one of the outrageous, did-he-just-say-that? shockers that Birbiglia laces into his routine - one that he quickly walks back with a convoluted explanation about how "women are smarter than men, their brains are more sophisticated, and they make 21 cents on the dollar ... How did this HAPPEN!? The answer is...children."

Matt Windman, amNY: Similarly to his previous work (such as "Sleepwalk With Me") Birbiglia relies upon a well-honed "nice guy" persona. In doing so, he comes off as heartfelt and relatable - not so different from any given audience member who is figuring out life as it goes along. There is an appealing smoothness and simplicity to his shows, which tend to be autobiographical in nature. Birbiglia excels at offering fun anecdotes, dramatizing conversations with offstage characters, making Seinfeld-style observations about daily life and performing occasional physical bits.

Jesse Oxfeld, New York Stage Review: This piece would be a pleasant few minutes on the radio. Apparently it was well-received off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane over the summer. Designer Beowulf Boritt has created an elegantly simple set (and provides the single theatrical moment that I'm not supposed to talk about). The director Seth Barrish, a frequent Birbiglia collaborator, does nothing (beyond that stool, and that mum's-the-word moment) to interfere with the writer and star doing his thing. (Would that he had.)

Steven Suskin, New York Stage Review: This week on Broadway, each and every reference to "the new one" no doubt referred to a gargantuan animatronic ape. Now we can wipe that out with Birbiglia's The New One. Not as big and spectacular as King Kong, needless to say, but gargantuanuously more entertaining.

Roma Torre, NY1: But the biggest surprise is Birbiglia's ability to fill the stage with little more than the wit and wisdom of someone who understands that humor is the bitterest truth refusing to take itself seriously.

Barbara Schuler, Newsday: Directed by Seth Barrish, Birbiglia tells the story as if for the first time, sharing a litany of gory details, from the indignities of fertility issues (he actually brought his urologists on Jimmy Kimmel) to the ramifications of the expectant mom's raging hormones. Along the way, he dispenses with the hilarity and sneaks in some valid concerns about bringing a child into a world of rising sea levels and environmental neglects, along with one infuriating (to me, anyway) comment about understanding why some men leave.

Elizabeth Bradley, Broadway News: At one point, in a gorgeous instance of authentic shared connection, Bibirglia says "That was a moment. There are moments where you feel like your souls are colliding in a way no two souls have in the history of humankind. And you think, 'how did I get this lucky?'" And that is exactly the feeling Birbiglia gives us at "The New One."

Greg Evans, Deadline: The emotional heart of The New One, though, beats loudest after the actual new one arrives, and Birbiglia's physical isolation becomes a metaphor for his emotional distance from mother and daughter. To say he's not particularly good at sharing or dealing with isolation is an understatement, and leads to one of the play's two most startling moments (the one that's not the before & after visual change-up, which, again, I won't spoil except to applaud set designer Beowulf Boritt).

Sara Holdren and Jesse David Fox, Vulture: J.D.F.: A little bit of both! But, yes, I did like it. The comedy was super-strong. Lots of different types of jokes, expertly crafted. I probably say this after all of his shows, but it's the funniest one yet. More than anything, though, I was most impressed by how it's structured.

S.H.: Honestly, I laughed much more than I was even expecting to. I think his storytelling and joke craft are pretty watertight. There were also things about the narrative that he thinks he's living (of Obsolete Doofy I-Have-No-Agency Father Figure) that made me raise my eyebrows a bit. But as a thing built to make me laugh, really well done.

Joe Dziemianowicz, Theater News Online: Birbiglia's self-awareness and smarts keep the show from sinking into an annoying pity party, though he has an irritating habit of shouting too much. And while the material isn't exactly earth-shattering, it's always engaging and sometimes startling.

Tim Teeman, Daily Beast: There will be no spoilers here about how all this works out, but the tone and pitch of the comedy changes dramatically toward the end of the 90 minutes. It has to; one of Birbiglia's final revelations is that his new life means he now laughs in a new way himself. You think you could stay there even longer. Birbiglia is the kind of ribald, engaging storyteller you never want to stop.

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