BUYER & CELLAR by Jonathan Tolins (Mirvish). At the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge). Runs to November 30. $25-$79. 416-872-1212, mirvish.com..
BUYER & CELLAR by Jonathan Tolins (Mirvish). At the Panasonic Theatre (651 Yonge). Runs to November 30. $25-$79. 416-872-1212, mirvish.com. See listing. Rating: NNNN
You dont have to be a massive Barbra Streisand fan to enjoy Buyer & Cellar. But a bit of knowledge helps.
Jonathan Tolinss clever solo show has an amusing premise inspired by My Passion For Design, a coffee table book written and featuring photos by Babs to show off her impeccable taste. One item mentions a mall in the basement on her Malibu estate. Yes, a mall. Where she keeps many of her purchases and mementos.
What, imagines Tolins, if someone worked at that underground mall?
Enter Alex More (Christopher J. Hanke), an underemployed L.A. actor who takes the gig without knowing who hes working for or what it entails. When he finds out the who, hes thrilled. When he finds out what hell be doing dusting the goods, donning a shopkeepers uniform and showing off the merch to a sole customer hes less excited.
But its a job, its La Streisand (even though he signs a de rigueur confidentiality agreement), and he can exercise his improv skills by coming up with stories about the stuff in the mall. Plus, his boyfriend, Barry (Jewish, struggling screenwriter), is a huge Streisand fan.
Much of the first half is filled with brilliant set pieces, like an extended struggle with Babs over the price of a doll. Although they eventually bond over preparations for a possible production of Gypsy, and Alex seems to see the lonely woman behind the legend, theres still an enormous power imbalance.
Directed by Stephen Brackett, the funny sequences and the more poignant ones come across beautifully, the lighting design (by Eric Southern) subtly suggesting shifts in time and place on Andrew Boyces elegant white-on-white set.
Above all, its a bravura showcase for an actor, and although the plays original star, Michael Urie, exuded more mischievous glee, Hanke makes a likeable and highly entertaining guide through this surreal world of privilege, opportunity and human connection.