CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Film Review: Mike Birbiglia Steps Up in ‘Sleepwalk with Me’
CHICAGO – It’s exciting to witness a breakthrough with a new film artist. The comedian Mike Birbiglia has adapted his one-man show, “Sleepwalk with Me,” into a movie, and the result is a naturalistic performance piece that plays both like a documentary and Woody Allen’s during the “Annie Hall” period. Birbiglia gets a little help from some friends like Lauren Ambrose, Kirsten Schaal, Wyatt Cenac and Amy Schumer.
This is a based-on-real-events story of Birbiglia’s actual bout with a dangerous sleepwalking condition, one that had him falling off furniture and doing potential damage to all of his relationships. He parallels this struggle with his quest to mate, relating to his girlfriend while trying to develop a stand up career. The film is gutsy, poignant, very funny and has a style that plays like Cinéma Vérité, the fancy film school term that means “truth.” Plus it has the bonus of cameos from the current crop of hot comedians, who are in essence co-workers of the sleepwalking man.
Mike Birbiglia portrays his fictional twin, Matt Pandamiglio. He is a bartender at a club that occasionally features comedy. Matt longs to try his hand on stage, but his act is stale and it worries his girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose). A chance encounter with an agent starts his career on the road, and it is here he starts to hone what will become his signature laconic act. But his relationship starts to disintegrate, and in desperation he becomes engaged.
His peculiar habit of sleepwalking becomes more prevalent when under stress, so his marriage plans and his nascent comedy career begin to take its toll. He wakes up after falling off the top of a dresser, he wakes up in the middle of a shower, he begins to endanger himself and others. Meanwhile, the relationship he wants to become forever might not even make it to next week. If only the tragedy of his life could translate to comedy, all might turn out okay.
Photo credit: IFC Films