Saturday, 9 November 2013

Buyer and Cellar, Barrow Street theatre, Off-Broadway

Off-Broadway is a realm of all kinds of small and wacky theatres. In the case of the Barrow Street, it's quite obviously used as a community-centre during the day, but of an evening it's hosted a lot of top-flight stuff. "Buyer and Cellar" is no exception - it's a one-man play telling of a struggling actor who gets a job in Barbra Streisand's basement, looking after her accumulated possessions. As the prologue states, this is speculation based on a couple of paragraphs of Barbra's somewhat bizarre interior-decorating book "My Passion for Design" (which turned out to be entirely real and available on severe discount at Barnes and Noble ... I didn't buy it), but it uses the speculation to extend into asking some major questions about celebrity, ownership, detachment and class. It's also ridiculously gossipy, funny and bitchy as hell.

Michael Urie is the one man, and he's delightful. He mentions early on he's not going to do Barbra's voice ("everybody does it, even women")... but the voice he chooses for Barbra has wit, Jewishness, is canny and full of character. As Alex More, the unemployed actor, he's hopeful yet aware of the risks, funny, clever-and-goofy in about equal measure. And he's a delight to behold.

The simple one-room set by Andrew Boyce is enhanced by clever lighting from Eric Southern. It's intriguing that there's been two shows largely relating to working for Barbra Streisand very recently ("I'll Eat You Last", which starred Bette Midler on Broadway and will star Miriam Margoyles in Melbourne next year, is the other one and deals with Barbra's long-term manager, Sue Mengers), and suggests there's still something about her unique combination of massive talent and equally massive narcicissm that retains relevance, even as the performer herself has done less and less interesting work over the last decade or two. And "Buyer and Cellar" is certainly both a celebration and an examination of that phenomenon, while also going beyond simple celeb-gossip into something far more human.

1 comment:

  1. "Nothing about Barbra is run of the mill - although, oddly, she does run her own mill."