The Unbearable Banishment: all by himself

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

all by himself

I took the number 6 local down to Bleecker Street…

…and saw Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me.

One man shows are dangerous affairs. They can be breathtaking, but they can also be painful to watch. Have you ever watched someone die on stage all by himself? It’s one thing to sit anonymously in a dark movie theater and suffer through a bad movie, but watching someone die on stage in an intimate playhouse is very personal. Fortunately, that was NOT the case here, thank God almighty, but it wasn’t what I expected, either.

The best one man (or one woman) shows are when someone tells a story from many different viewpoints. Watching an actor seamlessly and convincingly morph from one character to another is magic. This was not that kind of show. Mr. Birbiglia is a professional comedian and what he has done is inject some dramatic passages about some medical problems he had to overcome into his stand-up act and is calling it Off-Broadway. It’s not a bad show at all. I think he was trying to go the Spaulding Gray monologue route. I've seen Spaulding Gray. He ain't no Spalding Gray.

The show is having quite a successful run and got a nice write-up in the New York Times. I laughed along with everyone else but I’m not sure it’s fair to call it a one man show. It's stand-up.

During the show, Mr. Birbiglia mentioned that he uses Google Alert to monitor media and blog traffic about himself, so there’s an outside chance that he might actually stumble across this, which is pretty disconcerting. I liked the show. I’m just not sure it’s fair to sell it as theater.

Beforehand I got a quick bite at bite. It's a quirky outdoor food kiosk that juts out onto Lafayette Street and Bleecker. There are a few bar stools under a heat lamp on the sidewalk, but no indoor seating.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know, I was wondering what Beer-bigs would be like on stage. His "Two-drink Mike" CD is hilarious. And I've seen Spaulding Gray, twice. And the difference is that Mike Birbiglia has great bits, but they aren't carried in the form of narrative, which a lot of great comedic writers do, G.Keillor, Spaulding, hell even Bill Cosby's stuff in the 80s has very few punch lines if you listen to the material.

Gold standard (for me, at least) was Lily Tomlin's Search for Signs... from about 20 years ago. Intelligent, weird, quirky. You know about the Secret Public Journal, yeah?


December 9, 2008 at 12:07 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Yes! That's a PERFECT assessment.

December 9, 2008 at 12:32 PM  
Blogger mjp said...

Which Spaulding Gray show(s) did you see? He was a master.

December 9, 2008 at 1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

had never given much thought to the distinction - but now that you mention it, a one-man show should be more than stand-up.

and perhaps a bit more characterization than just switching hats or something...

December 9, 2008 at 5:34 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

mjp: I saw Monster in a Box and It’s a Slippery Slope live and all of the monologue films. Also, a posthumous work called Life Interrupted: The Unfinished Monologue that I had low expectations for that was actually quite good.

daisy: When it works, it's a good night out.

December 9, 2008 at 10:28 PM  
Blogger ~E said...

I;m all into weird food places and the next time I'm in New York (probably in the next few months) I'm definitely going to that Bite. And I'll probably hit you up for some other good places to go to ;)

December 10, 2008 at 2:34 AM  
Blogger Sid said...

Question: How comfortable is this food place when it cold, windy or snowing outside. I suppose ppl who go to this eatery don't really want to stay long?

December 10, 2008 at 3:41 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

e: C’mon down! Bring gobs of cash.

sid: When the weather gets THAT bad, it becomes strictly a take-away place. But if there's no precipitation, you can actually sit quite comfortably under the lamps. And it’s a primo spot for people watching!

December 10, 2008 at 8:40 AM  

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