BWW Review: BUYER & CELLAR at Daum Theatre Company
There's a brand new theatre company about to make a major splash in the gigantic pool of DFW theatres, and although it's not quite bathing suit season, this hot new troupe is ready to come out and play. With the opening night of their inaugural play, BUYER & CELLAR, now under their belt, Daum Theatre Company has hit the ground running with a quality production that holds its own against any established company in town.
This one-man show is a delightfully fictitious story of struggling LA actor, Alex Moore, who takes a job working in the bizarre basement mall built under the Malibu home of Miss Barbra Streisand (the mall is factual, believe it or not). As the singular employee of Streisand's Sweet Shop, Bee's Doll Shop, gift shoppe, antique shop and clothing boutique, Moore spends his full-time gig manning the mall and preparing for the occasional visits of the Diva (who often arrives under an alias as a penny-pinching persona). Playwright Jonathan Tolins wrote the act as a tribute to Streisand and her fans (especially the gay ones), based on the 2010 book My Passion for Design, written and photographed by Streisand herself.
Scenic designer Kevin Brown has managed to transform Grand Prairie Uptown Theatre's bleak black box into a warm and cozy living space. His masterful design not only serves as the basement of Barbara Streisand's home but also appropriately doubles as Alex's home and various other settings without the need for any cumbersome changes of furniture. Brown's attention to detail on the small stage is impeccable, enhanced by the support of Kristin Burgess' fitting props. The scenery is complemented by Scott Davis' clever lighting design, which enhances the lightning-fast transitions between the frequent stories and locations, as told by Alex. Danny Bergeron's use of sound effects further boosts the performance with constant door chimes and scene-enhancing background noises.
With the remainder of the theatrical responsibilities on his back, Joey Donoian delivers a tour-de-force performance with all of the wit and warmth he could jam-pack into the 90-minute piece. Although Donoian is credited simply as playing Alex Moore, throughout his storytelling, he also serves as the voice for Streisand's household manager, Miss Streisand herself, and all of the various men in their lives. With as much sassy banter as Donoian managed to expertly dish (and impressively memorize), he was still in comfortable control of the show, making a close bond with his opening night audience through hilariously improvised replies (based on their reactions throughout the show).
In a one-man show, it's virtually impossible to see where the role of the actor crosses over that of the director, but it's crystal clear that director Ian Bjorklund and his singular actor were a perfect match. Although the piece, as written, momentarily feels a bit long late in the act, Bjorklund found a perfect balance of keeping Donoian constantly on his toes without ever pacing aimlessly or becoming stiff. His guidance in frequently shifting the actor between characters and stories created a structure to the piece that never left the audience wanting anything more than this production delivered. If there were any room for improvement in the direction of the piece, it would be to remove the five-minute overture that starts the evening with an uncomfortably quiet and dark delay. But that early hiccup is quite easy to forgive.
If BUYER & CELLAR is any indication of the quality of work that Daum Theatre Company plans to present, the DFW theatre community is in for quite a treat. The production runs through January 21st. Tickets and more information can be found at www.DaumTheatre.com.