"To sleep, perchance to dream." Hamlet may have longed for that necessity of life, but what if that's your biggest problem? What if sleeping creates more anxiety than not being able to sleep? What if you dream about being in mortal combat with a bear, or a jackal?
Well, if you're young comedian Mike Birbiglia, you turn this into a hilarious verbal memoir called, "Sleepwalk With Me."
Wearing chinos, a well-worn pullover, sneakers and bed-hair, Birbiglia enters through a jagged hole in an electric blue Plexiglas wall, carrying his stool, a prop he uses for more than sitting, and warms up the audience. Tales of gigs at colleges where no one knows who he is, driving through the mountains of Vermont with a tyrannical GPS, and cell phones which force him to multi-task when he can only single-task, loosen our LOL muscles, and then he proclaims, "I'm in charge now."
And so he is, for the entire 90-minutes that fly by as fast as a dream, and leave us wanting more. With the dimming of the house lights, we are now prepared and eager to hear whatever he has to say.
Swearing that everything he is about to tell us is absolutely true, Birbiglia embarks on a remarkable tale of what happens when stress and anxiety make him hostage to sleepwalking and a REM disorder that eventually causes serious bloody damage to his slightly pudgy body.
As he takes us through all the twists and turns of a hypochondriac gone wild, his delivery reminds us of Seinfeld at his best, but his storytelling and circuitous routes to make his points is decidedly Cosby-esque. With his ever-present cigar and rambling family tales -- which seem to be more off-tangent than on -- Cosby always surprised us by tying it all together by the end, leaving no detail hanging loose. Birbiglia does the same in an almost stream-of-consciousness recitation, discussing every aspect of his life, which includes dad, mom, girlfriends, sex, proctologists, and, of course, sleepwalking.
His style is matter-of-fact, no big deal, yet he talks about big deals and makes them hilarious. He has the uncanny ability to have us laughing hysterically about bladder cancer, a father who speaks in cryptic epigrams, and a girlfriend who can't live with a jackal. When he compares first love to pizza-flavored ice cream, which he claims is transcendent, we're all there.
Birbiglia has the mark of a great comedian -- honesty with the audience and an ability to tell a story that he makes funny, even when it's not. Nothing about his life is off limits and anything is likely to wind up spoken, no matter how embarrassing. Instinctively he knows that we're on his side. A labor of love and four years in the writing, this comic had always dreamed (a good dream) that "Sleepwalk with Me" would cross over into theater. And it has.
Birbiglia's comedic career was launched when he was one of the youngest comics to get a spot on David Letterman's show. From there, he went on the road, playing colleges and clubs trying to become famous. He's done three Comedy Central specials, and released critically acclaimed albums that AMG Music called "stand-ups next big thing." His blog, "Secret Public Journal" (www.birbigs.com) in which he chronicles his habit of "making awkward situations even more awkward," has made him a regular on nationally syndicated radio shows including "The Opie and Anthony Show."
Directed by Seth Barrish and produced with the blessing of Nathan Lane among others, "Sleepwalk With Me" gives us the inside take on this loveable new voice in comedy. Birbiglia's perspective on life is the real deal. His language is ordinary, and like Billy Crystal or Seinfeld, he doesn't need to resort to our baser instincts to be funny. "Sleepwalk With Me" is pure entertainment and may just be the sleeper of the season.
Barbara Mehlman & Geri Manus
"Birbiglia almost creeps onto the stage to deliver what starts as a "silence your cell phones" announcement but turns into a hilarious warm-up act for the main section of the show: his very funny and ultimately touching story about sleepwalking and REM Behavior Disorder." & "Birbiglia delivers his piece with some choice physical gags, winning not only laughs but also hearts."
"The laughs continue at a constant pace in this thoroughly delightful, autobiographical sketch about life as a struggling comic with a potentially dangerous sleep disorder" & "During the 90-minute performance, it gradually becomes clear "Sleepwalk With Me" is something greater than simply good standup comedy. Birbiglia displays an uncanny ability to be hilarious, terrifying and poignant ï¿½ all in the same breath."
" Birbiglia knows how to have fun with dramatic structure..., his show isn't just stand-up and it isn't just war stories about suffering. Instead, it's a careful mixture of the two, heavy on the stand-up, designed to knit his little stories into one big one." & "It's hard to imagine anyone leaving without a goofy, Mike-like grin."