BWW Reviews: The Laughs Come in Bulk in Jonathan Tolins' BUYER & CELLAR
In the tradition of "I fall and it's tragedy, you fall and it's comedy" comes Jonathan Tolins' hilarious "Buyer & Cellar." Superstardom --the type as reached by award-winning actress, singer, writer, director and photographer Barbra Streisand-can be lonely and isolating if you happen to be Barbra Streisand. Everyone else is laughing themselves silly.
The inspiration for the evening is the very real book by Streisand, My Passion for Design. Tolins takes a bizarre admission -that Babs built a faux mall complete with street scene and shops to house her costumes, memorabilia and tchotchkes-and runs with it.
Michael Urie ("Ugly Betty") stars in this 100-minute, one-man show as struggling actor Alex More. After More is fired from Disneyland due to an "unfortunate incident in Toon Town," he answers an ad and with wide-eyed amazement finds himself employed by Streisand to keep the merchandize dusted and the popcorn and frozen yoghurt machines humming.
Urie plays all the characters. His Streisand offers enough of her persona without being caricature or impression. An early scene were the notoriously difficult to work with (and for) diva haggles with More over the price of one of the dolls she already owns is particularly funny and elicited howls of laughter. That fact that Urie can play a scene in which he alone delivers both sides of dialogue to such a comedic and realistic effect is an accomplishment. You really feel like you are watching a scene between two people despite the fact that Urie is the only guy on the stage.
There is a certain amount of irony to the fact that Streisand avoids the public and yet has created an artificial sense of community with her Malibu estate and invites that same public to ogle her design choices (albeit for the low, low price of $60 for her book). There's undoubtedly a market for her book; the American obsession with the cult of celebrity never seems to ebb. Unlike, say, the Kardashians, Streisand's talent is obvious.
"Buyer & Cellar" offers us a chance to both admire and laugh at her. If you're in need of lots of laughs, head on down to Streisand's basement mall. You won't be disappointed.
"Buyer & Cellar" plays the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place (175 E. Chestnut) through June 15. Tickets $30-$75 at 800-775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.