24 May 2012

Mike Birbiglia's Girlfriend's Boyfriend


I saw Mike Birbiglia's show 'My Girlfriend's Boyfriend' on Tuesday night. It's a masterclass in storytelling performance. And as funny as most anything I've seen. Honest and painful, with act-outs, anecdotes and asides, shifting back and forth in time, Birbigs takes us from before his first kiss right up to more recent life-changing romantic encounters.

Mike is a loveable, amiable schlub, who seems preternaturally relaxed as he meanders through his story (or rather his collection of threaded vignettes), only showing glimpses of the craft when he zags into an unexpected moment of clarity, or drops a cracker-dry tag on the end of a line. There are plenty of wince-inducing anecdotes, moments of reflection, and flights of fancy - and his impression of a dog eating spaghetti will stick with me for an uncomfortably long time.

His sleepy pacing and cadence, and rumpled appearance further the impression that he just wandered up out of an aisle seat and started talking, but the amount of polish and his obvious ease belie the amount of skill that he has, especially as he flips back and forth between anecdotes in the slow build-up to the show's satisfying conclusion.

And of course his craftsmanship is there from the get-go, when he turns an admin announcement into an extended and original routine about customer service phone calls - not exactly ground-breaking territory. But by the time he wrapped it up I was laughing so hard that I was surprised to find that only then did the houselights came down; he literally hadn't even begun.

Then he did. And Birbiglia wove personal stories on his romantic outlook and mishaps into a warm-hearted 'unlucky in love' narrative; his range is impressive, as he goes around and around from point to point. Mostly that's a metaphor, but he does some pretty impressive act-outs as well, especially when recounting a teenage date on a ride called 'The Scrambler'.

He also makes the time to muse on suicide bombers, the make-out club and a quest for car-repair justice. The show was eighty minutes long too, but sure didn't feel like it, as it was never rushed and I really didn't want it to end. But the night did end, and his run's about to end too, just a couple of shows left at the Soho Theatre.

Friday and Saturday are sold right out, so unless you're one of those folks with tickets for those shows (and let's face it, you're probably not that well organised. Tonight's your last chance. And you should go see it.

That's just how I feel.

UPDATE: Mike himself retweeted my review, which is cool. And it's a pretty nice write-up, so I don't blame him.

Less cool is the fact that he didn't take me up on my offer to give me a copy of Sleepwalk With Me, when his original offer expired. But I understand, we're good. I'll just watch it when it comes out next month.

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