Out-of-work actor Alex scores a dream job in Barbara Streisand’s personal shopping mall, built beneath the barn at her Malibu pad. For a Streisand aficionado, it’s the chance of a lifetime to rub shoulders with one of the greatest living legends of song, stage and screen. But the curious retail gig turns out to be far different than out-and-proud Alex could ever have imagined.
Jonathan Tolins’ off-Broadway comedy hit opened July 8 at Good Luck Macbeth to a sold-out crowd. In fact, the first two weekends were sold out, a testament to just how good this fictional fantasy is. Based loosely on a Streisand-penned book, “My Passion for Design,” the boutiques beneath Babs’ barn are real, but the rest is the creative imagining of playwright Tolins. And, as Alex reminds the audience in the opening scene, the fiction disclaimer is really important when you’re talking about “someone as famous, talented – and litigious – as Barbra Streisand.”
Christopher Daniels stars in the one-man, 90-minute show as Alex, who is hired by imperious estate manager, Sharon, to be the sole employee in a basement mall that has just one customer. Dour Sharon reminds Alex that the rules are simple: “…the customer is always right.” But the odd thing about this mall is that it’s not really retail shops at all. It’s a collection of boutiques to store Streisand’s fabulous dress and antique collections. Alex is more of a curator whose days are filled with dusting and arranging, until the “customer” walks in. Then the fun begins.
However, “Buyer and Cellar” is not just glib jokes and snarky observations at the expense of a larger-than-life singer actress. There is poignant discovery behind the creation of Babs’ mall cum museum. And Alex gets an unexpected lesson in dedication to art and style and what it takes to be a success at any level. Here’s a hint: it has to do with not settling.
This is a tour de force performance by stage-commanding Daniels, who plays every part in the show, superbly capturing each character’s idiosyncratic features, from demure Babs’ nasal intonation to Sharon’s austere condescension and boyfriend Barry’s Brooklyn accent. His comedic timing is pure precision as he feeds straight-man setups to himself, then transforms into another character in a flash and replies with clever one-liners. It is gifted acting.
Don’t miss this insightful and tender comedy. But you had better buy tickets now! I suspect the entire show will sell out, just like the first two weekends. Five sublime stars.
What: “Buyer and Cellar”
Where: Good Luck Macbeth Theatre: 713 S Virginia St, Reno
When: Through July 30
By Galen Watson