You can almost smell the chlorine as the Vivian Beaumont Theatre transforms into an extremely chlorinated YMCA Pool for Mike Birbiglia’s The Old Man And The Pool.
Birbiglia (literally) takes a dive into his fifth solo show by walking viewers through a story of grappling with his own morality, in the most hilarious way possible. His way of storytelling is both so vivid that it takes viewers out of the theatre and right into the Brooklyn YMCA, and so heartfelt that any viewer will feel uniquely inspired through the string sense if family and love that he emits throughout the whole play.
The show begins with Birbiglia talking about his latest doctor’s appointment, in which his breathing levels showed that of someone having a heart attack. His way of retelling such a shocking thing with such brilliant comedic timing stands true for the rest of the play, including tales of black mold in his apartment, the fine art of writing a will, and even a “guy who died by holding his breath at the YMCA pool.” The show begs to answer life’s more extisential questions; that asks the big questions: Why are we here? What’s next? What happens when the items at the doctor’s office that you thought were decorative become functional?
As a father to a young daughter, the subject matter of the show focuses on Mike as he grapples with some potentially life threatening ailments, including a diagnosis of Type-2 Diabetes. His doctor recommends that he tries out doing cardio five days a week. “Nobody does cardio five days a week.” Mike quips. “Lot’s of people do cardio five days a week.” She responds. She then recommends that he take a different approach; swimming five days a week. “Not even Michael Phelps swings five days a week,” He says. “Michael Phelps definitely swims five days a week,” His doctor responds.
Birbiglia turned to the audience towards the end of the show and requested that we all have a moment of silence for the aforementioned “guy” who had drowned by holding his breath at the YMCA pool. The tangent had stemmed from Birbiglia talking abut how signs are only there once someone has done something to warrant them, such as “slippery when wet.” After noticing a new sign that stated “no breath-holding,” he called for his swim instructor Vanessa, to ask what that meant. She informed him that last year, two guys had been having a breath-holding contest, and one of them died from it. Birbiglia attempt to convey this moment of silence was met with much resistance from the lively and excited opening night crowd, but I predict that this would be the case nay night, as it’s incredibly difficult to not match Birbiglia vivacious energy. Through many, many attempts, the moment of silence did in fact happen, but it wasn’t more than a few seconds before contagious laughter once again overtook the theatre.
The titular old man in question also has to do with the setting of most of the story; the YMCA. Birbiglia comedically asks audiences to “not quote this out of context” as he recounts what it was like to be in the pool’s locker room as a young child, particularly remembering an old man who used to sit naked on one of the benches.
Mike Birbiglia was joined by a star studded audience of Ben Stiller, Rachel Dratch, Melissa Villaseñor, Dulcé Sloan, Aasif Mandvi, Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, Krystina Hutchinson, and more to celebrate the Opening Night of his incredible show.
The Old Man and the Pool makes it’s splash as a limited Broadway run at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre from now until January 15th! Hear more about it and grab your tickets here!