×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Legit Review: Buyer and Cellar

Michael Urie sells auds on a delicious Off Broadway show about Streisand's basement

Could there be a goofier job than playing the Mayor of Toontown at Disneyland? Well, yeah. That would be playing the faux proprietor of a faux mall of boutique shops that a lonely (bored?) superstar built to display her acquisitions in the basement of a barn on her Malibu estate. That’s the unkind but absolutely delicious premise of “Buyer & Cellar,” which came to Jonathan Tolins in a flash of inspiration when he got his hands on Barbra Streisand’s coffee-table extravaganza, “My Passion for Design.” Solo piece, lovingly played by “Ugly Betty” cutie Michael Urie, should thrive in this Off Broadway transfer.

“Winsome” is the only word for Urie in the role of Alex More, a youngish gay man who takes this bizarre job as much out of curiosity as financial need. But, being an actor, he can’t help getting into the (entirely fictional, let it be said) role of the sole proprietor of the subterranean Main Street of quaint emporia — including a toy shop, a vintage clothing store, and a functioning soda fountain — that Streisand built to exhibit all the stuff she’s accumulated. And when the fabulous star herself pops into Bea’s Doll Shop, he can’t resist playing along with the game, making up a romantic history for a doll that catches her eye — and whimsically refusing to lower his asking price when she makes an offer for her own property.

No wonder the superstar is intrigued with her new hire. And no wonder the charmed aud happily goes along with this cute game. But not Alex’s boyfriend Barry, who works himself up into a jealous snit. “I’m not a big Barbra queen,” he says, prancing around in a pique. But his snap-and-sneer putdown of the superstar puts the worm of doubt into Alex’s belief that he’s made a friend of Barbra.

Urie doesn’t exactly do impressions. But under the even-handed guidance of helmer Stephen Brackett, he does draw on a few distinctive verbal and physical tics to help us visualize Barry swishing around and talking trash, and Streisand herself playing the Lady of the Manor, tossing back her hair and clicking her stiletto fingernails. He makes short work of house hubby James Brolin and a housekeeper who thinks she’s a prison warden. His take on Alex is even more basic: he smiles, he makes a funny face, we melt.

The show is never less than amusing, but more shallow than it needs to be to keep us laughing. Tolins (“The Twilight of the Golds”) clearly respects his diva star, but he doesn’t even speculate about the psychological impulses that might compel someone like Streisand to create an elaborate child’s fantasy world — her own private Disneyland — to escape to. Does it strike him as no more than the crazy whim of a spoiled star?

The scribe is far more sensitive about Alex’s need to make a friend of his famous employer and his even stronger compulsion to throw it away. It’s the classic case of a sweet, lonely nobody who succeeds in earning the attention, even the affection, of someone whose approval he craves — and then blows it because he can’t imagine what such a terrific person would see in a non-entity like him.

Tolins handles this subtext with such subtlety that we’re hardly aware of the chill that creeps into the basement of this fantasy world, and Urie gives such a nuanced reading of Alex’s devastating social blunder that it’s a big shock when the lights go out on Main Street.

Legit Review: “Buyer & Cellar”

Barrow Street Theater; 199 seats; $75 top. Opened June 24, 2013. Reviewed June 21. Running time: ONE HOUR, 35 MIN.

Production

A presentation by Darren Bagert, Dan Shaheen, Ted Snowdon, Daryl Roth, Martin Massman, Pat Flicker Addiss, Doug Nevin, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino. Andrew Tobias, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, of a Rattlestick Playwrights Theater production of a play in one act by Jonathan Tolins.

Creative

Directed by Stephen Brackett. Sets, Andrew Boyce; costumes, Jessica Pabst; lighting, Eric Southern; sound, Stowe Nelson; projections, Alex Hoch; production stage manager, Hannah Woodward.

Cast

Michael Urie

Legit Review: Buyer and Cellar

More Legit

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content