But it would take someone as dim as one of those sleep-enhancing nursery room lights not to figure out soon enough that The New One, really, is the baby, stupid, not the play. And besides, Birbiglia could name his daughter Little Ricky and still seem fresh. He’s that good.
The monologist starts with some terrific observational stuff that lays the groundwork for the main event, and won’t sound a bit funny on this page (the difference between a couch and a bed is that a couch hugs while a bed demands a room named after itself. See?) But it is funny, and all the proof necessary that Birbiglia could have set his loamy, conspiratorial This American Life voice to a traditional stand-up career and been just fine, thank you.
“I’ve lost a lot of great friends to kids,” he says, and if the anecdotes of once-cool adults reduced to blithering bores with the arrival of children aren’t exactly novel, Birbiglia, under the direction of frequent collaborator Seth Barrish, breathes them into life.
By the time of his breakthrough Sleepwalk With Me, in its 2008 Off Broadway iteration as well as the book and narrative feature film that followed, Birbiglia had, to put it mildly, narrow-focused his approach. Sleepwalk With Me detailed Birbiglia’s REM Behavior Disorder, a rare condition so severe that extreme measures need to be taken so he doesn’t crash himself through a second-story glass window – again.
Birbiglia briefly recounts that tale in The New One and tosses in a quick account of a fellow sufferer who dreamed he was fighting a wild animal, only to wake up and discover he’d murdered his wife. No joke.
But that’s only one of the reasons Birbiglia needs convincing to take on fatherhood. He likes his marriage and his career just the way they are, and besides his “boys don’t swim.” Pregnancy will be expensive, require surgery (on him) and could risk passing on any of the various medical realities that have left him and his body in the “loser” area (his word) of life’s gene pool. He’s a cancer survivor, has a generally gloomy attitude and that whole sleepwalking thing didn’t just clear up after he made an artistic and commercial success of it.