BWW Review: FAC's BUYER & CELLAR and the Allure of Celebrity
The opening night performance of Fine Arts Center's Buyer & Cellar comes at the conclusion of a week that saw several public figures pass from this life, including iconic performers David Bowie and Alan Rickman. For the past several days, social media has been filled with people expressing sorrow and fond memories for people that, in the most part, they had never actually met. Such is the power of celebrity, to create the illusion of connection and intimacy with a remote star.
Jonathan Tolins' one-man play examines the nature of that illusion, though Alex More (Sammy Gleason) has a stronger, if peculiar, claim to such a connection. He has been employed to work as a shopkeeper in the basement of Barbra Streisand. See, Streisand has created an indoor mall to house her various collections and mementos, and Alex, one of LA's many out-of-work actors, is there to add an air of verisimilitude. (It figures that Barbra Streisand doesn't even store her random junk like the rest of us.) Alex confesses that he had never been much of a "Streisand queen," but nevertheless he can't help but be fascinated by the great diva and his relationship with her. Is he getting a glimpse of the ordinary human behind the idol or, as his boyfriend Barry claims, is he just a pawn in Streisand's eternal quest for self-validation? Or both?
Gleason is a magnetic presence, effortlessly holding the stage for ninety minutes while he fires off rapid streams of one-liners and brings to life not only Alex but the people surrounding him: Barry, Streisand's aloof personal assistant Sharon, James Brolin, and of course (in an impression of style and manner rather than a faithful imitation) Babs herself. His few stumbles are easily smoothed over by the play's Brechtian establishing monologue, drawing attention to the fiction of what we are seeing: Streisand's Malibu estate and underground mall are real (as seen in her book My Passion for Design), Alex and his adventures are creatures of imagination. And fascinating adventures they are, too, by turns touching and bizarre and filled with witty, surreal humor. He is aided by Holly Anne Rawls' simple lighting effects and a host of appropriate sound cues (handled by stage manager Terri Harrison) creating definite moods on the elegant black-and-white set (aptly described by Alex "as if your grandma designed the Apple store"). The hour-and-a-half performance is a bit long to be sitting in the stackable chairs in the FAC's second stage space, but it is a strange trip into the realms of the rich and famous that is worth taking nonetheless.
BUYER & CELLAR plays now through January 24th at the Fine Arts Center, Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2pm. For tickets, contact the box office at 719-634-5581 or visit csfineartscenter.org.