BWW Reviews: BUYER & CELLAR at Shakespeare Theatre Company Stars Michael Urie
Kudos to the Shakespeare Theatre Company Artistic Director Michael Kahn for once again bringing new and exiting work to the STC. There has been the Nigerian musical FELA, the National Theatre of Scotland's incredible BLACK WATCH, and the marvelous Kneehigh production of BRIEF ENCOUNTER have all been great additions to the STC line-up. Well, chalk up another huge success that Kahn has brought to Baltimore/Washington audiences, the clever and enjoyable comedy BUYER & CELLAR which stars the talented Michael Urie.
All right, I admit, I was a huge fan of the televison series"Ugly Betty" which showcased Urie as Marc St. James, an assistant to the character played by Vanessa Williams. It was clear that Urie was someone special. As it turns out he was trained at Julliard and while there was actually a pupil of Kahn.
Playwright Jonathan Tolins initially envisioned the one person show to star Jesse Tyler Ferguson (from "Modern Family" fame) but due to the filming of the show was unable to do it. So up to the plate stepped Urie and has he hit a home run. Director Stephen Brackett does a masterly job.
The ninety-minute piece is based on a book that Barbra Streisand wrote called "My Passion for Design". It seems Streisand's manse in Malibu includes the house that is the subject of the book. One walks down a spiral staircase to the basement which in reality is like a shopping mall (I'm not making this up) with various rooms dedicated to costumes worn by Streisand, tchotchkes she has aquired, dolls she has collected, a frozen yogurt machine, etc. Urie plays the role of unemployed actor Alex Moore who answers an ad for a job but is completely ignorant of who he will be working for. You can imagine the shock and awe once he realizes what he will be doing and for whom.
Besides portraying the role of Moore, he also tackles the role of Streisand (one has to use your imagination) and he nails her. The conversations they have together are absolutely hilarious. Using just a few of Streisand's mannerisms, Urie successfully conveys the character of Steisand.
There is an hysterical scene in which Streisand visits "the doll shop" and inquires how much a certain doll is. When told by Moore, it is $850, she is shocked it is so much. She tries to bargain, offers $500, but is told the price is "non-negotiable". Later she returns with a $350 coupon (the audience explodes with laughter) and the sale is consumated. That scene just about sums up the type of hilarity that you will expierence in this not-to-missed entertainment.
Urie such a talent as he plays other roles as well, including his mother.
I highly recommend reading the wonderful piece by Washington Post theater critic Peter Marks on June 14, 2014, about his experience when he traveled to Malibu to interview Streisand and actually viewed "the mall" in her basement. Truth is truly stranger than fiction.
Urie has performed the show over 400 times but it is fresher than ever. The only tragedy is you only have until June 29 to see this wonderfully funny play at the Sidney Harman Hall. For tickets, call 202-547-1122 or visit www.shakespearetheatre.org. Thank you again Mr. Kahn!
DVR ALERT - Catch "Theater Talk" on MPT2, June 30 at 12 a.m. to see Michael Urie and playwright Jonathan Tolin. Verizon channel 480.
Also at STC is Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES which is playing at the Lansburgh Theatre until July 13 directed by Maria Aitken.