Off Broadway Theater Review: BUYER & CELLAR (Barrow Street Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on June 24, 2013

in Theater-New York

HELLO, GORGEOUS

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of BUYER & CELLAR at Barrow Street Theatre - RattlestickJonathan Tolkin’s keen and tremendously funny new show Buyer & Cellar, performed by Michael Urie, imagines what it would be like for Alex More, a young gay man struggling to make it as an actor in Hollywood, to find himself working in the artificial mall Barbara Streisand built in the basement of her “rustic” Malibu mansion.

The show begins with Mr. Urie showing and telling us about an actual coffee-table book Ms. Streisand created called My Passion for Design, which, as recommended on barbarastreisand.com, contains “many of her own photographs of the rooms she has decorated, the furniture and art she has collected, and the ravishing gardens she has planned on her land.” Ms. Streisand reveals that she had a lot of stuff she didn’t know what to do with, and rather than simply storing it someplace dark and out of the way she had a miniature mall built in her basement and put all her things on display at the various “shops.”

This is the factual part, explains Mr. Urie; the rest, as told by Alex, is invention: Having recently been fired from his job as the mayor of Toontown at Disneyland, Alex gets a lead on an unspecified position in Malibu. This turns out to be working as a “clerk” in Streisand’s “shops.” He accepts the bizarre offer and soon finds himself alone, underground, and bored, dusting Barbara’s antiques, dolls and old clothing to the soundtrack of the frozen yogurt and popcorn machines humming in the background. But before long Alex encounters the megastar and a curious relationship begins to develop.

Dmitry Zvonkov's Stage and Cinema Off Broadway review of BUYER & CELLAR at Barrow Street Theatre - Rattlestick

Besides Alex and Barbara, we meet Alex’s frustrated screenwriter boyfriend Barry who, when it comes to Streisand, belongs to the “who does she think she is” contingent. We also meet Streisand’s secretary, as well as James Brolin, who comes downstairs for a big cup of frozen yogurt with sprinkles. On Andrew Boyce’s nearly bare white set where location changes are indicated by Alex Koch’s useful projections, Mr. Urie, under Stephen Brackett’s sharp and balanced direction, portrays these characters with an elegant combination of verve and restraint, making them funny but not comical. There is love and compassion in his depictions, which never deteriorate into caricature, making the show a delightful and fascinating experience even for someone whose interest in and knowledge of Ms. Streisand is limited.

photos by Sandra Coudert

Buyer & Cellar
produced by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater
Barrow Street Theatre
open run closed July 27, 2014 (458 performances)
for tickets, call 212.868.4444 or visit Buyer and Cellar

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