What if? What if you imagined what it would be like to be hired by “the lady of the house” in Malibu to work in her self designed basement mall – a series of “shoppes” to house her various collections of antiques, dolls, clothing and whatever else with its very own frozen yogurt machine and popcorn maker?
That is exactly what playwright Jonathan Tolins has fantasized and come up with a very funny concoction called BUYER & CELLAR that has recently transferred from the Rattlestick Theater to its new home at the intimate Barrow Street Theatre. The “lady of the house” happens to be none other than super star, perfectionist and master negotiator Barbra Streisand whose motto here seems to be – How much is not enough?
Alex More, the unemployed and uninsured actor hired is the immensely talented, adorable and accomplished actor and man of many faces and voices Mr. Michael Urie. Clutching a copy of Streisand’s 2010 tome MY PASSION FOR DESIGN (for which she credits herself for photography) Mr. Urie explains that this truly is a fantasy – to protect any and all against litigation. They need not worry. This is a loving tribute to the star, a star obviously admired by Mr. Tolins and Mr. Urie.
When Mr. Urie and “the lady of the house” who becomes Sadie and then Barbra as the two bond in the basement there are some hilarious exchanges between them over the purchase of a doll, Fifi, who blows bubbles. The negotiation is one of the highlights of the play with Mr. Urie’s version of Ms. Streisand that is not an imitation but a physical rendering that captures her essence looking almost like a marionette incarnation of the star. It’s pure perfection.
With a bounce to his step as he darts around the stage under the superb direction of Stephen Brackett he becomes Sharon, Streisand’s caustic assistant, Barry the boyfriend, James Brolin the husband and Streisand the star et al.
Mr. Urie commands our attention immediately with laugh inducing line readings of some very funny lines with a nod and a wink and a comment or two with his eyes alone that will have you enjoying yourself for a full ninety minutes of barbs aimed at Babs and Brooklyn. And insecurities. And some sadness.
As they become closer (pure fantasy at work here) Mr. Urie becomes her acting coach after suggesting and planting the idea of her playing Mama Rose in the ultimate version of an already perfect GYPSY which still might be on Streisand’s agenda.
It’s ironic that Michael Urie starred in UGLY BETTY on television and all, it seems, that Barbra Streisand ever wanted was to be called “pretty” and have a real dolly, not a hot water bottle substitute and every award imaginable, and a barn with chickens and a gorgeous husband, and a doting son and her very own basement mall rendered beautifully by set designer Andrew Boyce in classic taupe, grey and white with projections by Alex Hoch that seamlessly transport us to other locations. Great sound (Stowe Nelson) and lighting (Eric Southern) add to the festivities. But it is Michael Urie’s virtuosic performance that manages to upstage the greatest star herself.
Photo: Sandra Coudert
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