top of page

REVIEW: The Old Man at the Pool

We’re never too old for a reminder to just keep swimming.

My dad, who has been to me since birth an old man at the pool—what with his daily, slow, flipturn-free laps—was absent as my mom and I headed to Lincoln Center to see yet another—one who claimed to be The—Old Man at the Pool. I’ll admit, I was less than lured by the name of the show, a compilation of words that conjure anxiety. Pool, especially, since I grew up swimming competitively, and not very well. But I was pleasantly surprised by the emotional rollercoaster of Mike Birbiglia’s one man act—his individual medley, if you will.

Through a funny, heart-warming production, Birbiglia recounts how, despite really not wanting to, he becomes a swimmer, the prescription from his doctor to better his heart health. While his situation is hardly unique (that is, his desire to watch his daughter grow up motivates him to exercise), his storytelling, and the way his narrative wades back and forth in time, feels refreshing in its simplicity. The story is accessible and universal: we all have to do things we don’t want to do. There is no intricate set—just the curved tile of an empty pool. There is no complicated allegory to unpack. What we get are laugh-out-loud anecdotes from Birbiglia’s past—one in particular about jumping through a window while sleep-walking that compelled me to seek further content. And there are sweet, charming stories of conversations with his daughter, Oona. There is only one metaphor to understand, and Birbiglia circles it red for us by making it the name of the show. It is the old man at the pool Birbiglia sees when he is a child—the oldest person Birbiglia has ever seen—who returns to the pool day after day, to keep swimming. Never mind his age. Never mind his wrinkles. In a way, Birbiglia tells us, “We are all the old man at the pool.”

Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the show was that it left me in the mood to swim. Birbiglia’s reminder of the tech-free, endless blue, noiseless underwater had me trying to recall where I’d put my cap and goggles. I still haven’t swum, but I did locate my gear, and that feels like a step. And if I took one other gem from the show, it was to take one step at a time, because the pool deck is nearly always wet.

34 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page