Monday, April 18, 2016

Off-Broadway Review: Thank God for Jokes -- Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbilglia. Photo: Joan Marcus
Thank God for Jokes
By Mike Birbiglia
Directed by Seth Barrish
Lynn Redgrave Theater

By Lauren Yarger

What's It All About?
It's comedian Mike Birbiglia doing a standup at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. It's 70 minutes of pure entertainment. Surrounded by chapel-looking stained glass windows (designed by Beowulf Boritt with Lighting Design by Aaron Copp and Davison Scandrett), Birbiglia talks about a number of topics, including jokes themselves. They're really more than just punch lines. By nature, they offend someone and express an opinion. In his laid-back manner, Birbiglia does both -- to continuous laughter from the packed-out house.

What are the Highlights? 
Moving easily between the serious and absurd, Birbiglia entertains, especially when he mercilessly tortures some latecomers and drills audience members about their past transgressions. The routine is well written and sharply presented. Birbiglia is a performer as well, having appeared in TV's "Orange is The New Black" and "Trainwreck" as well as films. His past acclaimed Off-Broadway shows were My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend (Lucille Lortel Award for Best Solo Show, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Solo Show) and Sleepwalk With Me (Nightlife Award for Outstanding Comedian in A Major Performance, Drama Desk and Outer Critic Circle Award nominations).

What Are the Lowlights?
Jesus and religion take a few hits for the team (but Mohammed is spared . . . after all look what happened to those cartoonists in France, he reminds us . . .) It's pretty moderate compared to some other shows, so don't let it stop you from purchasing a ticket.

More Information:
Thank God for Jokes plays at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, 45 Bleecker St., NYC. Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:30 pm; Saturday and Sunday at 4:30 pm. Tickets start at $56.50: thankgodforjokes.com; 866-811-4111.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- Sexual Dialogue
-- Language 

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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