ROBIN’S SHOW RECOMMENDATION: BUYER & CELLAR
On the heels of strong box office and reviews, the producers of Buyer & Cellar, starring Michael Urie (“Ugly Betty”), written by Jonathan Tolins, and directed by Stephen Brackett, recently announced that the hit off-Broadway comedy will play an open-ended run at the Barrow Street Theatre.
Buyer & Cellar is a comedy about the price of fame, the cost of things, and the oddest of odd jobs. Using Barbra Streisand’s real-life tome “My Passion for Design” as inspiration, the play tells the quirky tale of a fledgling LA actor who takes on the unlikely and somewhat thankless job of overseeing the shoppes in her Malibu home basement (yes…Streisand really has a bevy of shops that display her collection of antique dolls, costumes, etc. It’s for her private consumption only…and she feigns making purchases — or at least that’s so in the play — and haggles on the price as she offers up a coupon for a discount.)
Buyer & Cellar is the recipient of the 2013 Drama Desk, Clarence Derwent, and Off-Broadway Alliance awards. It premiered in April 2013 at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.
It’s easy to see why the show is enjoying big success. A “Star is Born” in Urie….no Streisand (she starred in the 1976 film) pun intended. I was not familiar with his work on the television show Ugly Betty, so it was a delicious treat to see him command the stage…..he has us from “hello.” His performance is endearing and hysterical….and often at the same time. We feel for him…we cheer for him…we pine for him….as he takes us on a fictitous, yet vivid ride straddling the world of wealth and fame and as he works to hold on to his dignity and preserve personal relationships.
The show’s premise is both intriguing and over the top, and we totally buy into it because of the appeal and believability of Urie. He deftly bounces back ‘n forth from one character to the next (with no costume/makeup changes)…using just voice and body language, to portray Streisand, James Brolin, her housekeeper Sharon and Alex’s boyfriend. His rapid-fire, quick-witted, yet earnest delivery make the piece pop with laughs and a shot of wisdom thrown in. With minimalist set, yet effective staging and lighting, this show holds its own for 1 hour, 35 minutes.
I’m now a huge fan of playwright Tolins…the irreverent humor and pithy one-liner retro references reminded me of the style of playwright Charles Busch (who I have long admired).
Buyer & Cellar plays Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30pm; Saturday and Sunday at 2:30pm at the Barrow Street Theatre, 27 Barrow Street, east of Seventh Avenue South. There will be no performance on Tuesday, September 3, and a special matinee added on Wednesday, September 4, at 2:30pm. Tickets are $75 and may be purchased by phoning 212 868-4444 or by visiting www.smarttix.com. The Barrow Street Theatre box office opens daily at 1pm. For more information about Buyer & Cellar, visit www.buyerandcellar.com.