"Buyer and Cellar" at Westport Country Playhouse
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
As the saying goes, “You can’t take it with you,” and yet, many of us have hobbies that involve collecting things. The only difference is, the very rich and famous can collect more expensive toys than the rest of us, and they house them in museums on their property. Barbra Streisand’s book, “My Passion for Design,” mentions that some of her collections are creatively stored, shopping mall style, in the basement of a barn located on her Malibu estate. And thus, playwright Jonathan Tolins was inspired to write his comedy/fantasy, “Buyer & Cellar” which is currently playing at Westport Country Playhouse. It just goes to show that a writer never knows where an idea might come from and sometimes the art is in making something out of nothing.
It’s logical that collections tend to represent the owner’s personality, and like Liberace and Elvis who kept elaborately designed costumes and fancy cars, Barbra Streisand presents a fascinating image that many people are familiar with. And so, why not create a humorous fantasy about being hired as a shopkeeper in her basement’s shopping mall, which comes complete with vending machines and a French doll that blows bubbles? What better way to reflect on Barbara’s personality and her collections? That’s exactly what Tolins did and so far he’s gotten away with it -- probably because the show is so successful.
Among his many credits, Michael Urie may be best known for his TV roles as Marc St. James on “Ugly Betty,” and Gaven Sinclair on “Modern Family.” Urie was the original shopkeeper, “Alex More” in the Off-Broadway production of this show, which is simultaneously being filmed at the Playhouse, for the New York Public Television series, “Theatre Close-Up.” The original director, Stephen Brackett, and the design team also take part in Westport’s production.
In “Buyer & Cellar” we dare you to take your eyes off this impish, highly talented actor. Like Peter Pan, Urie flits across the stage while weaving this fantasy and impersonating the various, Malibu mansion’s characters, including Barbra herself. Imagine having to hide your dusty car behind the bushes because it might spoil the image of the estate. How about trying to outwit Streisand as she tries to bargain down the price for her own doll -- and comes back with discount coupons yet.You can’t help enjoying the clever, Yiddish-spiced dialogue, human characterizations, and Urie’s delightful presentation of Tolins’ work.
Plays to July 3 Tickets: 203-227-4177
This review appears in “On CT & NY Theatre” June/2016