In his latest one-man show, The New One, Mike Birbiglia shares intimate information about his relationship with a piece of furniture. “I love my couch,” he says. “It’s the first big thing I dropped money on in my life.” I love my couch also. It was one of the first “adult” pieces of furniture I shopped for and purchased with my wife. We got it at Bloomingdale’s, and I remember being heartbroken when it turned out that the delivery people couldn’t fit the couch into the elevator in our building (even though they claimed they were sure it would fit when we bought it). They had to take this majestic item apart, then put it back together once inside our apartment. That couch has been with us a long time, through several colonizing cats, but now we might have to get rid of it because it’s too soft and comfortable for my back. Why am I telling you all this? Well, the couch, which Birbiglia calls “a bed that hugs you,” plays an integral role, along with a cat, in the show, which continues at the Cherry Lane through August 26. Like at such previous Birbiglia confessionals as Sleepwalk with Me and Thank God for Jokes, audiences leave the theater feeling the need to share aspects of their own life while still brushing away the tears brought on by Birbiglia’s tales, both from laughing at his perceptive musings on human nature and crying at his deeply personal revelations. He doesn’t hold anything back, getting as graphic as, um, let’s just say he gets pretty graphic. It’s a unique kind of cathartic experience that helps explain why his shows sell out so quickly.
In The New One, the Massachusetts-born Birbiglia, who recently turned forty and, as he states, looks like a cross between Matt Damon and Bill O’Reilly, talks about how, after ten years of marriage, his wife, Jen — whom he regularly refers to as Chlo — suddenly decided she wanted to have a baby, something they had previously agreed they did not want. So Birbiglia spends most of the show discussing his current and past sex life, explaining how babies destroyed his brother’s once-happy life, and delving deep into his various health problems, several of which are extremely serious and quite frightening, including the dangerous sleepwalking that was the focus of his breakthrough performance. “There are details in my life that are both setups and punchlines,” he says after describing what he has to do to prepare for bed in order to try not to sleepwalk. He also lists reasons why he never wanted to have a kid in the first place, including: “I don’t think there should be children anymore.” At one point he also says, “I’m telling you this long, embarrassing story to make the point that I consider myself ‘decent.’”
Birbiglia, who won a Lucille Lortel Award for My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend and wrote, directed, and starred in the 2016 film Don’t Think Twice, certainly comes off as decent in The New One, which is executive produced by Ira Glass (This American Life). Birbiglia freely admits his failings, as well as his successes, making us consider our own as well, like soldiers comparing battle scars. He’s just a regular, soft-spoken guy — his delivery grows stronger as the show goes on — with trials and tribulations that we all can relate to. Not that we’d want to have any of his illnesses, which are pretty horrific. Director Seth Barrish (Pentecost, The Tricky Part) and Tony-winning set designer Beowulf Boritt (Act One, Come from Away), who have both worked with Birbiglia before, keep things simple, save for one cool surprise. And the wooden slats, like window blinds, around the Cherry Lane make it feel as if the audience is within Birbiglia’s psyche, which is a comfortable place to be for seventy-five minutes. Kind of like a bed that hugs you.
The Secret Society of the Sisterhood is making its New York City debut on the night of the full moon, May 29, at historic Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. Dubbed “An Evening of Storytelling for Women and Fierce Allies of Women,” the show is hosted by BanterGirl founder Trish Nelson, a self-identified producer, performer, writer, and waitress who hopes “that other women across the land will be able to see that no matter where you come from, or where you currently are in life, you do not have to wait around for someone else to give you permission to execute your dreams.” The theme of the May 29 event is “Soooo... THAT happened!,” with actress and poet Amber Tamblyn, writer and activist Lorri Davis, bestselling author Dhonielle Clayton, and comedian Ayanna Dookie sharing true tales. There will also be live music by Kaki King and a song by Treya Lam, visual art by Aditi Damle, Rebekah Harris, and Marguerite Dabaie, and a dance party led by DJ Tikka Masala. Proceeds from the festivities will go to Girls Write Now, which provides mentoring programs, college prep courses, reading series, digital exhibitions, workshops, and more to empower young women. So you’re not going to want to miss this opportunity not only to hear and see cool things — it all takes place under candlelight — but also to get to hang out at an amazing cemetery during a full moon. We already can’t wait to tell people, “Soooo... THAT happened!”
A POP CULTURE EXTRAVAGANZA
Milk Studios (and other venues)
450 West Fifteenth St. between Ninth & Tenth Aves.
Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, free - $160
New York magazine’s fifth annual Vulture Festival takes place this weekend at Milk Studios and other locations, celebrating pop culture. Below are only some of the nearly three dozen events that encompass film, music, comedy, art, podcasts, books, and more; all tickets include complimentary access to the Vulture Lounge following the event. Among the other participants are Julianna Margulies, Rachel Bloom, Adam Pally, Sutton Foster, Hilary Duff, Debi Mazar, Darren Star, Wendy Williams, Johnny Knoxville, Cameron Esposito, Marti Noxon, Rachael Ray, Adam Platt, Michelle Yeoh, Jonathan Groff, Liev Schreiber, David Edelstein, Bo Burnham, and Wyatt Cenac.
Saturday, May 19
John Leguizamo: In Conversation, moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, followed by a book signing, Milk Studios — Penthouse, $30, 11:30 am
One Book, One New York, One Event: Jennifer Egan in conversation with Adam Moss, Milk Studios — Studio 1, free with advance registration, 2:30
Maggie Gyllenhaal in Five Acts, conversation focusing on five of her projects, Milk Studios — Penthouse, $30, 4:00
Roxane Gay and Amber Tamblyn Present Feminist AF, with special guests Jennine Capó Crucet, Sharon Olds, and Morgan Parker, Milk Studios — Studio 1, $30, 6:45
Tracy Morgan in Hilarious Conversation, moderated by Matt Zoller Seitz, Milk Studios — AT&T Studio, $30, 8:00
Sunday, May 20
Jerry Saltz’s Masterly Tour of the Met Breuer, tour of the Met exhibit “Like Life” led by Jerry Saltz, Met Breuer, $150, 9:00 am
Boozy Brunch with Your Best Friends Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, and Phoebe Robinson, conversation with stars of new Netflix film Ibiza, moderated by Michelle Buteau, Milk Studios — Studio 4, $30, 12 noon
Claire Danes and Jim Parsons’s A Kid Like Jake, discussion of new movie with actors Claire Danes and Jim Parsons, director Silas Howard, and writer Daniel Pearle, Milk Studios — Studio 1, $30, 2:15
In Conversation with Samantha Bee, the Full Frontal Team, and Rebecca Traister: discussion with Samantha Bee, Melinda Taub, Ashley Nicole Black, Allana Harkin, Mike Rubens, and Amy Hoggart, moderated by Rebecca Traister, Milk Studios — AT&T Studio, $40, 5:45
Ava DuVernay and the Cast of Queen Sugar, with Ava DuVernay, Rutina Wesley, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, and Kofi Siriboe, Milk Studios — Studio 4, $30, 6:45
Rubin Museum of Art
West 17th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Friday, May 4, $10-$15, 6:00 - 11:20
Programs continue through June
Exhibitions run through November 4 and January 7
The Rubin Museum is handing over much of its always fascinating programming for May and June to innovative multimedia artist and Brooklyn native Chitra Ganesh, whose “drawing-based practice brings to light narrative representations of femininity, sexuality, and power typically absent from canons of literature and art,” as explained in her artist statement. In February, the Rubin opened Ganesh’s “The Scorpion Gesture,” featuring magical large-scale animated interventions in the “Gateway to Himalayan Art” and “Masterworks” exhibitions, and “Face of the Future,” a fellowship program consisting of new works on paper and collage-based pieces by Ganesh in addition to contributions from emerging artists Maia Cruz Palileo, Nontsikelelo Mutiti, Tammy Nguyen, Jagdeep Raina, Sahana Ramakrishnan, Anuj Shrestha, and Tuesday Smillie. On Friday, May 4, Ganesh will be at the museum for “Celebrate Chitra Ganesh: A Night with DJ Rekha, Special Tours, and Performances,” including a dialogue with the art collective BUFU, remarks by Ganesh, docent-led tours of Ganesh’s two shows, a performance by Jacolby Satterwhite (Blessed Avenue), a dance party in the K2 Lounge with DJ Rekha, and a screening of Fred M. Wilcox’s 1956 sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet, introduced by Ganesh.
Ganesh, a Rubin Museum Future Fellow whose “Eyes of Time” was on view at the Brooklyn Museum in 2015, has also selected the films and speakers for the Cabaret Cinema “Face of the Future” series, which continues May 11 with Gojira (Godzilla) (Ishiro Honda, 1954), introduced by Nguyen; May 18 with Ghost in the Shell (Mamoru Oshii, 1995), introduced by Ramakrishnan; June 8 with Born in Flames (Lizzie Borden, 1983), introduced by Smillie; and June 22 with Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968), introduced by Palileo. In addition, there will be a series of conversations pairing scientific and legal experts with artists and activists, beginning May 9 with “The Future of Feminism” with Linda Sarsour and Ganesh and continuing May 16 with “The Future of Transformation with Qasim Naqvi,” May 23 with “The Future of Evidence” with Alexis Agathocleous and Elizabeth Phelps, May 30 with “The Future of Science Fiction” with Nisi Shawl and the Otolith Group, June 6 with “The Future of #Mood” with Janelle James and Richard Friedman, June 13 with “The Future of Mythology” with Mimi Mondal and Ganesh, June 20 with “The Future of Responsibility” with the Guerrilla Girls and Ganesh, and June 27 with “The Future of Justice” with sujatha baliga and Robert Yazzie.
The sixth annual NYC PodFest takes place this weekend at Abrons Arts Center, with two dozen podcasts recording live in front of an audience, adding a visual element to what is usually just an aural experience. Among the special guests are Michael Ian Black, Judy Gold, Jordan Klepper, Wheatus, Kevin McDonald, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Touré, Matthew Broderick, Martha Plimpton, and Zach Braff. Below are only some of the highlights.
Friday, April 6
Pod Save the People, hosted by DeRay Mckesson, with guest Touré, $30-$40, 7:00
If I Were You with Jake Hurwitz & Amir Blumenfeld, $25-$45, 9:15
Saturday, April 7
Kill Me Now with Judy Gold, $10, 2:45
Employee of the Month, hosted by Catie Lazarus, with guests Masha Gessen, Martha Plimpton, and Anthony Atamanuik and musical guest Lucy Wainwright Roche and the Employee of the Month house band, $20, 3:00
Kevin McDonald’s Kevin McDonald Show, with guests Michael Ian Black and Jordan Klepper and musical guest Wheatus, $15-$25, 9:15
Sunday, April 8
A Discussion with Zach Braff and Gimlet Founder Alex Blumberg, plus an advance screening of Alex, Inc., free with advance RSVP, 7:15
Touré Show, hosted by Touré, $15, 1:00
Little Known Facts, hosted by Ilana Levine, with guest Matthew Broderick, $10, 6:30
Who: Mel Brooks
What: Film clips and reminiscences by a comedy legend
Where: Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center, One East 65th St. at Fifth Ave., 212-507-9580
When: Wednesday, May 9, $99, 7:00
Why: “Look, I really don’t want to wax philosophic, but I will say that if you’re alive, you got to flap your arms and legs, you got to jump around a lot, you got to make a lot of noise, because life is the very opposite of death. And therefore, as I see it, if you’re quiet, you’re not living. . . . You’ve got to be noisy, or at least your thoughts should be noisy and colorful and lively.” So says the noisy and colorful and lively Brooklyn-born Melvin Kaminsky, better known as comedy legend Mel Brooks. The ninety-one-year-old Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner, the genius behind such films as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Silent Movie, is returning to the Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center with his one-man show, an evening of anecdotes, film clips, stand-up, and personal stories from his life and career. The $150 reserved seats are sold out, but there are still $99 general admission tickets for this rare chance to see and hear Brooks in person, in a unique venue that directly relates to one of his most-memed quotes: “I may be angry at God or at the world, and I’m sure that a lot of my comedy is based on anger and hostility. It comes from a feeling that as a Jew and as a person, I don’t fit into the mainstream of American society. Feeling different, feeling alienated, feeling persecuted, feeling that the only way you can deal with the world is to laugh — because if you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry and never stop crying — that’s probably what’s responsible for the Jews’ having developed such a great sense of humor. The people who had the greatest reason to weep learned more than anyone else how to laugh.”