Review: My Girlfriend's Boyfriend
Monologuist Mike Birbiglia talks about love.
Mon Apr 4 2011
Photograph: Joan Marcus
STOOL KIT Birbiglia leans on his minimal set.
Time Out Ratings :<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Like any consummate performer, Mike Birbiglia makes it look easy. The slacker comedian waddles onto a bare stage in his latest solo show, My Girlfriend's Boyfriend, and shares stories about love, loss and vomit for 90 minutes in a stoner's drawl. But this easygoing frat-boy persona is sly theatrical subterfuge. You think you're hearing some amiable, slightly dorky everydude bashfully cop to his romantic failures in the most endearing way possible. Truth is, Birbiglia is a seasoned pro who skillfully plays his audience like a fiddle made out of funny bones.
Two years ago, Birbiglia wrote and performed the Off Broadway hit Sleepwalk with Me (which he later turned into a best-selling book), cementing his reputation as a comic raconteur with heart. But Birbiglia developed that pose years earlier at the open-mike storytelling institution the Moth. It was there that he perfected a style of live comedy that combined years in stand-up with a deeper emotionality. Birbiglia balances punch lines and pathos, managing to indulge in neither the desperate cynicism of the former nor the sappy sentimentality of the latter.
The primary tale that bookends My Girlfriend's Boyfriend was road-tested at the Moth and has been heard on NPR's This American Life. It's an account of Birbiglia surviving a hit-and-run accident, the Kafka-like aftermath and how the trauma brought him closer to his girlfriend. In between, Birbiglia tells genuinely heartrending and laugh-out-loud stories about first kisses, first dates and, yes, his girlfriend's boyfriend. The narrative does lose steam toward the end, but luckily, the performer does not.
Barrow Street Theatre (see Off Broadway). Written and performed by Mike Birbiglia. Dir. Seth Barrish. 1hr 30mins. No intermission.