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Sunday, 23 June 2013 19:28

Off-Broadway Review: BUYER & CELLAR

Written by
Michael Urie Michael Urie Photo: Sandra Coudert

Jonathan Tolins’ (The Twilight of the Golds) new one-man play, Buyer & Cellar is the foundation for a wet-dream for many a gay man, the chance to hang out and play make believe with Barbra Streisand.  Tolins packs Buyer & Cellar’s 90 minutes with an LPM – laughs per minute – ratio that any comedy writer would be proud of.  It stars the talented Michael Urie in a number of roles that give him a chance to showcase his talent.   Urie has a knack for telling a story and keeping you engaged.  He has already been honored with a Drama Desk and Clarence Derwent Award for his performance of this piece at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

The clever premise is built around a coffee-table book put out by Streisand in 2010 called “My Passion for Design.”  It details her sense of style starting with the small Brooklyn apartment she grew up in and shared with extended family, to her new Malibu dream house she shares with her current husband, James Brolin. 

Urie is Alex More, an out-of-work Los Angeles actor who, until there was a scandal, played the Mayor of Toon Town at Disneyland.  He has been hired to work for Ms. Streisand.  In building her new home, she has built a mall into the basement of her barn to showcase all her possessions accumulated, “after decades of fame and fortune and unbridled acquisition.”  It’s a street of shops that includes a doll shop, china shop, antique clothing boutique and a gift shoppe (which Urie’s character continually pronounces as if he were reading it phonetically).  Alex describes the clothing boutique as, “like a dress shop in GiGi stocked with clothes from Funny Girl." 

From the outset, Urie assures us that what we are about to see is fiction, purely from the mind of Mr. Tolins and that it could never possibly be true about someone “as famous, talented, and litigious as Barbra Streisand.”  He also assures us that he doesn’t “do” Ms. Streisand, or any impressions for that matter.  To a certain degree he is right. 

It's not Urie’s accuracy in his impersonations that impress, it is his alacrity at switching from one to the other so swiftly and completely. Whether he is his portraying Alex’s boyfriend Barry, who lives vicariously through Alex’s job until it comes between them, or James Brolin, ala Rico Suave. He commits his entire body to the impersonation, even his face and hands are engaged. As Streisand, his hands curl inward towards his chest in a cautious, protective way, his eyes just ever so slightly askew.

Urie's diction, verbal dexterity, and sense of timing are impressive; his joy at playing this role is evident. When he smiles it's a wide happy one that's as genuine as it comes.

Director Stephen Brackett is to be commended for the brisk pace with which he has Urie telling the story. The minimal set by Andrew Boyce is a contracted proscenium opening with a playing area completely painted white.  It has a white table and chair and a coffee table.  Projections by Alex Hoch play on the upstage wall and help set the scene.  Transitions are aided by the lighting of Eric Southern

Tolins has given us shapely characters and Urie fills them out nicely.  Buyer & Cellar is a comedy, but not without its tender moments.  Alex asks Barbra what her utopia would look like, to which she responds, “I’d be pretty.”  To Ms. Streisand, I would respond that I know a lot of gay men who already think you are pretty.    

Might we yet see Buyer & Cellar on Broadway?  In the audience the night I attended was none other than freshly reminted Tony Award-winning Broadway producer, Barry Weisler.  He and wife Fran won a 2013 Tony Award for their stunning revival of Pippin.  Stay tuned to The AndyGram for further details.

Additional Info

  • Theatre: Barrow Street Theatre
  • Theatre Address: 27 Barrow Street New York, NY
  • Show Style: Play
  • Previews:: June 18, 2013
  • Opening Night: June 24, 2013
  • Closing: Open Ended
Last modified on Monday, 24 June 2013 21:44