Mike Birbiglia’s “The Old Man and the Pool” takes you full circle in the relationship of one man and a chlorinated pool. Although the Mark Taper Forum is surrounded by water and that in the past the Mark Taper did have a pool for one of its productions, this production won’t get you wet although you might tear up from laughter.
I love pools and the clear water reflecting light off of the cool blue. Despite fighting the effects of chlorination on my skin, hair and eyes, I love a day in a relatively deserted pool for exercise. There was a two-year period when my work paid for my membership to the Rose Bowl Aquatics and I went nearly every day. The pool I swam in was heated and specifically for therapy. There were more old women than old men there. However, most pools I’ve been in were outdoor pools.
Birbiglia’s experience is different. He’s from the East Coast and Massachusetts, his home state, isn’t year-round sunshine like coastal Southern California. Directed by Seth Barrish with a minimalist set design by Beowulf Borritt, the show begins with Birbiglia sitting on a stool with an abstraction of a pool in the background.
If you’re familiar with Birbiglia, his life has been dominated by several illnesses. He has symptoms. When he went for his annual check-up in 2017, the looked at the symptom sheet and “circled the whole thing and crossed out pregnant.” Birbiglia is most famous for his “Sleep with Me” monologue which is about his rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder. On one occasion, he ran out of a second-story window of a motel while he was on tour. That’s extreme sleep walking and, as a result, he has a peculiar sleeping ritual. He also survived cancer surgery at the young age of 19.
As you might expect, he has sort of a “what’s next” attitude when it comes to health . Couple his own health issues with those of his father and his paternal grandfather and you might think you’re in for a real downer of an evening, but in 85 minutes, Birbiglia will charm you into considering your own mortality and what you’d be willing to do for five days a week, even if you aren’t Michael Phelps.
“The Old Man and the Pool” continues at the Mark Taper until 28 August 2022. Go for a casual, cozy evening to be entertained by someone who you may or may not consider old, but you will consider funny. For tickets or more info, visit CenterTheatreGroup.