The Ridgelea Reports on Theatre
“Buyer and Cellar” at Westport Country Playhouse
This wacky play by Jonathan Tollins adds nothing to your experience except enjoyable frou-frou. It’s a made-up story that never happened. Michael Urie, the very versatile actor who portrays Alex More, makes a huge point of underscoring that as he introduces the play. Ostensibly a fable about Barbra Streisand’s Malibu property that features a Connecticut barn and water-wheel, along with a Winterthur-like set of shops in the lowest level, the tale is conceived from a fantasy projection based on a book Ms. Streisand published on decorating with Americana.
That being said, Urie’s juicy portrayal of how a friendly agent sent Alex out to Malibu for a job that involved portraying a Disneyland-like manager of the shops in the basement takes on a life of its own as Urie switches into the personas of Sharon, the house-manager and the wispy Barbra, then for a moment husband James Brolin, and Barry, who is Alex’ boy-friend and partner, and the happy-go-lucky Alex, who enjoys his work most of the time, until a fray with Barry induces another fray with Barbra that sort of ends his employment.
Urie has a youthful charm, often coy, full of expression, and he plays with the audience for almost two hours of non-stop reminiscing in great detail. He was the original Alex in the Off-Broadway production at the Barrow Street Theatre, and in fact this is the New York Production, which has been on tour. Directed by Stephen Brackett with panache, on a handsome set by Andrew Boyce including a grand screen on which to show projections designed by Alex Basco Koch. Lighting by Eris Southern. Sound by Stowe Nelson. Costume design by Jessica Pabst.
It might be fair to observe that the Westport theater is too large for the intimacy this play needs. It is a decidedly gay male reminiscence that implies that we are just here together in this small space and ‘I, Alex, am sharing with you the dish about me and Barry and my short-lived job in Malibu coaching Barbra to play at playing Mama Rose just before Arthur Laurents died.’ Beyond the first ten rows of seats (that’s about the size of the Barrow Street Theatre) the intimacy fades into not hearing or getting all the dish, not feeling connected, and having to fill in the blanks made by distance learning.
Tickets and Information at www.westportplayhouse.org, or 203-227-4177.
Tom Nissley for the Ridgelea Reports on Theatre