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He Says: The New One Soars High Above the Wreckage

He Says: The New One Soars High Above the Wreckage

My friend who was coming with me to Mike Birbiglia’s The New One on Broadwaygot very excited as we walked up to the Cort Theatre last weekend. He, like me, didn’t look at anything about the show that I invited him to go to, and was arriving blissfully unaware, but once he saw the star’s name and his picture on the marquee he was thrilled.  For me though, I remained unaware and unfazed.  I vaguely knew the name, and was also aware of his previous show, Sleepwalk with Me, but had never seen it, nor had a read anything about that show, or him. I had heard whispers of what The New One was about, that it was basically a story-telling stand-up one man show that had something to do with a newborn, and that it had sold out almost instantly garnering a lot of positive press when it performed off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater. I had tried to get a few press tickets, but no luck there. So I was feeling pretty good walking in, especially after my buddy recognized the comedian’s name and became quite animated about how lucky we were to be here. And we were. Most hilariously so.

The New OneMike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia, The New One. Photo by Joan Marcus.

As directed by long time collaborator, Seth Barrish (Netflix’s “Mike Birbiglia: My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend”) like a casual comedic stroll through someone’s vast living room, The New One is an expertly crafted hilarious adventure that highlights such various vantage points and thought perspectives of Birbiglia’s life, love, and non-sleepwalking dreams (that whole segue about his sleeping bag straight jacket makes me really want to see Sleepwalk with Me).  His couch is one, and pizza seems to be a close second, with maybe his adoring wife, Jennifer Hope Stein (who is credited for Additional Writing), coming in a distant but adored third, but that is just the beginning. With expertly crafted storytelling skills that engage, endear, and make us feel strongly connected to the material, much like a ‘couch hug’ or some ‘sleeping mittens’, Mike Birbiglia does the almost impossible by making a small show both Broadway-big and surprisingly intimate, and even though the territory he travels through is familiar, he somehow makes it unique, hilariously self-deprecating, and very very wisely funny.

The New OneMike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia, The New One. Photo by Joan Marcus.

Beyond the clues that I mentioned already, I’m not going to divulge anything else, and I think Birbiglia would agree with me on that: “The truth is I try not to tell people anything about my new show because, i find, the less you know about the show the more you will enjoy it.” The set by Beowulf Boritt (Broadway’s Come From Away, Meteor Shower) is a cascading-ly clever creation of surprise and wonder, enhanced with solid lighting by Aaron Copp (Tanglewood’s Candide) and sound design by Leon Rothenberg (Broadway’s The Waverly Gallery), celebrating all that is wondrous about The New One and Mike Birbiglia’s adventure within it. It’s utterly hilarious, sweet, vulnerable, and connecting, and it would be a challenge not to be swayed by his deceptively simple style and expert delivery.  It’s smart and on target, daring us not to join in with his dilemma and laugh right alongside him as he muddles his way from beginning to the end.  Don’t be fooled by his sheepish and lazy approach to comedy and stand-up, Mike Birbiglia’s The New One on Broadway is strong, smart, and solid, much like his wife’s love and patience must be.

The New OneMike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia, The New One on Broadway at the Cort Theatre. Photo by Joan Marcus.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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