THE NEW ONE

THE NEW ONE
Written & performed by Mike Birbiglia
Directed by Seth Barrish

This won’t be a long review. A plethora of words wouldn’t help explain why Mike Birbiglia’s new one-man effort works as well as it does. The show’s strength lies in its simplicity, and its charm comes less from its rather garden-variety premise than from Birbiglia’s unaffected performance style.

Basically, THE NEW ONE is about a lovably insecure guy (Birbiglia) who sees himself as something of an overgrown adolescent and therefore can’t imagine being a dad. Yet when the day arrives, he rises to the challenges of parenting, finding unexpected joy amid all the chaos and exhaustion. That’s pretty much it. So even at an intermission- less 80 minutes, there needs to be plenty of anecdote and invention to put flesh on such a basic narrative skeleton. Thankfully, Birbiglia goes at the task with an expert touch. Though his monologue appears to be stream-of- consciousness, it’s clear that he’s been through numerous drafts, selecting just the right details to stir into the mix and what to leave out. He pokes gentle fun at the baby industry, and confesses that he feels like and intern in his own home as things constantly need to be fetched for mother and baby. And in addition to the usual parenting ordeals, Mike brings his own set of quirks and conditions. We learn, for example, that he suffers from a disorder called RBD (a dangerous form of sleepwalking) and has to sleep in a harness, further complicating the new family’s domestic arrangements. His relationship with his wife, poet Jen Stein, is inevitably upended by the arrival of the new one, but ultimately deepens as they learn the ropes of co-nurturing.

Birbiglia has spent years, both as a standup comedian and a frequent contributor to non-fiction storytelling programs like The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life, honing a comic persona that is both erudite and self-effacing. His ease on stage helps establish an instant rapport with the audience, and though we more or less know where he’s going, we’re still happy to follow along as he takes his first baby steps into the overwhelming universe of fatherhood.

Birbiglia has spent years, both as a standup comedian and a frequent contributor to non-fiction storytelling programs like The Moth Radio Hour and This American Life, honing a comic persona that is both erudite and self-effacing. His ease on stage helps establish an instant rapport with the audience, and though we more or less know where he’s going, we’re still happy to follow along as he takes his first baby steps into the overwhelming universe of fatherhood.

THE NEW ONE continues through January 20, 2019 at the Cort Theater.,
 138 W 48th St, New York, NY 10036. Tickets: Broadway.com.

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