During Barbra Streisand’s 2010 interview with Oprah to promote her coffee-table book A Passion for Design, a short film was shown of Babs giving O a tour of her Malibu home, including the basement of the18th Century farmhouse she built on the property, which is arranged into a mall of shops to house her vast collection of things.
It was riveting. Playwright Jonathan Tolkin uses this as a jumping off point for Buyer & Cellar. The play received great reviews during it’s off-broadway run and now it’s making its way around the country and just landed at SHN’s Curran Theatre with original star Michael Urie of Ugly Betty and Partners fame. Michael plays Alex More, a down on his luck LA actor who takes a job tending the shops after getting fired from Disneyland.
What follows is a 100 minute tour de force as Urie plays Alex, his boyfriend Barry, the house manager, James Brolin and Babs herself, along with a few others. Alex quickly ingratiates himself as the sole employee to the mall’s only customer, Barbra, after hilariously haggling with her over the price of a rare french doll. It’s a fast and funny introduction to the characters and the world we’re transported to. Urie inhabits each character with lightning speed, affecting the posture and sucked-in cheeks of a Brooklyn-esque Streisand one minute, the limber youthful energy of Alex the next, giving each character a sweet vulnerability to explore themes of celebrity, friendship and loneliness. It’s an amazing performance. As Alex and Streisand further bond, we’re treated to different cues and inferences even the most casual Streisand admirer will appreciate, including a brutally honest critique of The Mirror Has Two Faces. The ending comes way too quickly, as Alex exits Streisand’s world just as quickly as he arrived.
It’s not a perfect show, by any means. The boyfriend’s a walking stereotype, and since there’s no intermission, the show slows down in the middle a bit after an energetic beginning. Overall though, I really enjoyed it and I probably missed about half the Streisand references. But if you have the chance, go. Urie’s performance alone is worth it.Visit SHNSF.com for tickets and info.