Over a career that spans almost six decades, Barbra Streisand has achieved more success than many of her Hollywood counterparts. She has become an Oscar-winning movie star from a best-selling singer, …
Over a career that spans almost six decades, Barbra Streisand has achieved more success than many of her Hollywood counterparts. She has become an Oscar-winning movie star from a best-selling singer, the Las Vegas queen from the Hollywood producer, the film director from the gay icon, the political activist from Jewish diva.
She has enamored an audience with being the ugly duckling who made it big! Streisand fans are some of the most fanatical. Hers is one of a true cult following.
And so it is no surprise that this bigger-than-life personality would be the subject of countless books, stories and even a one man show which is being presented this week only at the Forestburgh Playhouse.
Well, let me re-phrase that. The beloved pop-culture of “Barbra Streisand” is a major feature of Jonathan Tolins’ one man show “Buyer & Cellar”.
The show is an eccentric story about a struggling Los Angeles actor, who gets hired to work in the basement of a barn on Streisand’s fabled estate, which has been designed to resemble a quaint, European-style arcade of little shops in which she stores her extensive collection of dolls, dresses and toys accumulated over her famous lifetime. The production has a very interesting start where our fictional actor, Alex More, lets us know a few things right up front.
I mean to say that he explains in no nonsense terms that this play is a work of fiction! He lets us know that none of this really happened and that he is in no way impersonating Streisand. He does go on to say that the script was born as a result of the very real book written by Streisand called “My Passion for Design”. In it we learn that Ms. Streisand does in fact have a barn basement converted into a mall of shops! Writer Jonathan Tolins takes that tidbit and creates a fictional “what-if scenario” that makes for an evening of wonder, wit and woohoo!
I had never heard of this show and thought that it was being presented on the main stage at Forestburgh. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the intimacy and “bring you right into the story” atmosphere that the Tavern provided. (Along with the treat that I could have a beer while watching.)
Inside the Tavern, the staging is going to be simple and yet Scene Designer Steven Velasquez laid out a Subterranean setting so effectively with minimal furniture and projected sketch-like backdrops that worked marvelously. Joseph Fisher’s lighting design further enhanced and truly moved the scenes from basement to home to driveway to our star’s inner thoughts flawlessly.
The minimal set consisted of a Victorian chair, a settee and a side metal table. The truth is that Nick Cearley who plays or should I say plays Alex More and channels many other roles doesn’t need much at all. He sells it. The man could play this part (parts) in an empty parking lot and we’d believe everything he says. The small thrust stage of the Tavern is perfect and puts him right in our laps. We are right there with him. And when he is on stage, you know it. He commands the playing area with every sashay or flamboyant gesture (and there are many), or in-your-face-fact-of-life.
And yet, his portrait of this man gains our empathy as the story goes on. But let’s get something straight. This isn’t just a sentimental tale. Oh no. Mr. Cearley flips and flops in and out of roles; most of the time he’s playing himself interacting with these other people. And of course, the main interactions are with The Great One herself. He says at the beginning that he isn’t going to be impersonating her, but he definitely has a Barbra persona all his own! And it’s a hoot!
If I’m going to be honest, the Barbra interactions are a blast, but I loved his interactions with his tell-it-like-it-is boyfriend Barry. There’s one scene later in the show where Barry lets Alex know what he thinks of the Yentl star who complains about being the ugly duckling.
After hilariously listing her conquests, he retorts, “She didn’t do too bad!”. That doesn’t mean that Actor/Mall Worker More doesn’t have his share of grievances with his employer/goddess which, of course, creates quite a bit of the comedy.
It goes without saying that some over-the-top shtick and definite camp find a home in a tale as tall as this one. But it works and Mr. Cearley makes sure it works as well as giving us an evening to remember!
“Buyer & Cellar” runs through August 22. Tickets and information are available at the box office by calling (845) 794-1194 or going to forestburghplayhouse.org.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here