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Staying afloat with laughter in ‘Mike Birbiglia: The Previous Man & the Pool’ at Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theater


What’s so humorous about ageing, sickness, mortality, a extremely chlorinated pool on the YMCA, and a unadorned previous man within the locker room? Lots, if you happen to’re award-winning entertainer Mike Birbiglia. Again on Broadway for a strictly restricted engagement on the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Middle, his newest present, The Previous Man & the Pool (which has already been prolonged by well-liked demand), combines stand-up and bodily comedy with deeply private autobiographical storytelling in a hilariously uplifting and affecting rumination on life and demise, impressed by his 2017 prognosis with a critical cardio situation, battles with bladder most cancers and diabetes, and a household historical past of coronary heart assaults on the age of 56. By way of all of it, he retains on smiling, joking, and proving that laughter is the perfect medication, by dosing the viewers with spoonful after spoonful of his delectable elixir. It’s a recipe that’s method higher for you than the unhealthy “sugar fries” he imagines.

Mike Birbiglia. Photograph by Emilio Madrid.

Brilliantly constructed with triggered reminiscences, tangential anecdotes, insightful observations, and prolonged metaphors that invariably circle again and surprisingly hook up with the theme at hand – of his (and Everyman’s) ever deteriorating physique and encroaching demise – Birbiglia, now 44, delivers the darkish humor with pure ease and fluidity, spot-on timing, and irrepressible zest and appeal. He’s even irresistible when mock-scolding members of the viewers for arriving twenty minutes after curtain time (the one event on which I’ve ever been completely satisfied that individuals confirmed up late!) and for laughing incessantly by his request for a second of silence to look at a person’s peculiar demise within the eponymous pool.

Below the exact and animated course of Seth Barrish (the fifth solo present on which he and Birbiglia have collaborated), with Ira Glass serving as story advisor, the grasp monologist, casually wearing denims, sneakers, and a long-sleeve button-down polka-dot shirt (costume design by Toni-Leslie James), doesn’t cease shifting across the stage or touchdown the surprising punchlines and abrupt sidesplitting ending that sharply truncate any probability of lingering in sentimental moments of misery or concern. As an alternative, he embraces a way of joie de vivre, carpe diem, and the recommendation of the late Warren Zevon to “take pleasure in each sandwich” (although not an excessive amount of of the rooster parmesan), within the spirit that he’s “right here for a superb time, not a very long time.”

Mike Birbiglia. Photograph by Emilio Madrid.

Whether or not re-enacting uproarious episodes of respiratory right into a medical take a look at tube (badly), swimming (badly), wrestling (badly), or difficult the recommendation of his medical doctors (unsuccessfully and repeatedly), Birbiglia by no means fails to elicit a laugh-out-loud response from his enthusiastic followers (if you happen to weren’t one earlier than, you’re assured to turn into one now), together with his sharp-witted phrases and consummately executed examination of the inescapable common actuality of the transiency of life. And he does all of it with solely a stool on a easy curved set by Beowulf Boritt that evokes each a wave and a medical graph about to engulf him, projections by Hana S. Kim that change with the tales and determine the locales, expressive lighting by Aaron Copp that dramatically emphasizes the riotous gut-punch of a conclusion, and his personal extraordinary expertise for locating relatable humor in darkness.

Operating Time: Roughly 80 minutes, with out intermission.

Mike Birbiglia: The Previous Man & the Pool performs by Sunday, January 15, 2023, on the Vivian Beaumont Theater, 150 West 65th Road, NYC. For tickets (priced at $84-298, plus charges), go on-line. Masks are optionally available within the theater and foyer.

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