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.
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.
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.