PASSIONATE DESIGNS MARK ”BUYER AND CELLAR”

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Calling all Barbra Streisand fans to run to Hartford TheaterWorks by Valentine’s Day to indulge in some highly entertaining fictional fantasy about that gorgeous gal. Playwright Jonathan Tolins has indulged in creating a fictionalized account about Barbra’s basement, of all things. As she explains in her exceptionally detailed fashion coffee table book about her Malibu, California home, “My Passion for Design,” even her basement is worthy of admiration.

Many of us collect “stuff,” but Barbra Streisand’s stuff is destined to be remarkable. To display it properly, she had a series of boutiques, in the European style, a mall if you will, built below her incredible house. To care for her things, her dolls, her costumes, her dollhouses, her antiques, she hires an out-of-work actor to be her shopkeeper. That is the intriguing premise upon which Tolins layers his lavish imaginary storyline “Buyer and Cellar.”

Tom Lenk plays Alex More, the impressionable and eager to please faux proprietor of the shops, the caretaker of the goodies that range from gifts to yogurt and popcorn machines, the man whose singular job is to cater to and serve his singular mistress. Lenk plays all the parts from the diva herself, her accommodating husband James, her difficult to please assistant Sharon and Alex’s obsessively jealous boyfriend Barry. And he plays each part with caring and panache.

Lenk is deliciously delightful as he dishes with his darling of a department store doings.¬†Initially he might not have wanted the position but soon he is thoroughly engaged in doing his best to please “Sadie,” the name Barbra goes by when she deigns to browse, shop and, occasionally, purchase. Their encounter over FiFi, the imported French doll who blows bubbles, is priceless...well, actually $850 retail.

Rob Ruggiero lets his directorial talents shine, as projections of the legend by Rob Denton fill the set beautifully designed by Luke Hegel-Cantarella. The theme is carried out in the upstairs art gallery where shades of Barbra bloom in abundance. You can even pose with the star and her Oscar.

For tickets ($50-65), call TheaterWorks, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford at 860-527-7838 or online at www.theaterworkshartford.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Admit it. Wouldn’t you just love to shop in Barbra Streisand’s basement, even if you couldn’t afford to buy anything. Well, maybe, you could purchase a gardenia scented bar of soap.

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