Buyer & Cellar**** (Menier Chocolate Factory)

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Theatre

Buyer & Cellar Barrow Street Theatre

All of us obsessive hoarders know the problem – where do we store all the memorabilia (aka junk) that piles higher year by year? How do we keep it all in reasonable order and dusted? Of course these problems are solved easily for the super rich, who can find all the space they need and then hire someone to look after it all. Jonathan Tolins’ play, a big off-Broadway hit, is a monologue telling of Alex, a “resting” gay actor who takes a job in the cellar of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu home doing just that. The story could possibly be true – an opening disclaimer tells us that it may not be so, but it is much more fun to assume that it is. To his surprise, Alex finds the cellar laid out like a shopping mall, with all the items categorised appropriately –  in a dolls’ emporium, a candy store, a gift “shoppe”, etc. He spends his days doing very little until the eventual arrival of the mall’s only possible customer, who proceeds to haggle over the price of a doll which she already owns. Lovers of showbiz tittle-tattle will find what follows utterly irresistible, a non-stop flow of hilarious anecdotes and in-jokes – a late-night visit by the lady of the house to “buy” a frozen yoghurt, James Brolin later fetching the second helping she is too ashamed to ask for, Alex rehearsing her to play Mamma Rose in Gypsy (25 years too late), and so on. Tolins manages both to mock Streisand and to pay affectionate tribute to her, seeing her as a woman with limitless cash but nothing to spend it on, more isolated than Alex on most of his working days; “nobody ever stops by” she complains, noting that 70% of the people she knows are gay. “I wonder why” responds Alex. However, witty as Tolins’ script is, it is hard to imagine that it could work half as well without the brilliant performance of Michael Urie as Alex; switching from adoring or sneering superfan to impersonations of a brittle superstar, he dispenses warmth and bitchiness in equal measure. This is a real tour de force, providing yet another delightful evening at the Menier.

Performance date: 2 April 2015

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