You may not have read Barbra Streisand’s unintentionally hilarious 2010 photo book My Passion for Design — and if you have read it, then… congratulations? — but you’ve probably heard of some of its more ridiculous revelations. Namely, that the diva built a custom-made shopping mall in the basement of a barn on her estate called Main Street, lined with storefronts that house her enormous accumulation of possessions.
Rattlestick Theater’s new Off Broadway production Buyer & Cellar, penned by Jonathan Tolins, takes what seems like a very limited premise — what if Babs hired a full-time clerk for what is essentially a one-customer mall? — and stretches it into a 90-minute one-man show that’s dense with laughs, pathos, and even a little suspense. In places where the script lags, star Michael Urie (Ugly Betty, Partners) picks up the slack with a committed, freakishly energetic performance as Alex, a struggling gay actor who’s lucky (or desperate) enough to punch his timecard in Barbra World.
Urie tells Alex’s tale with the gossipy ”You’re not going to believe this” wonder of a most entertaining brunch companion. His Streisand impression is more amusing than dead-on, but he inhabits both customer and employee deeply, giving the story two fully formed characters. Alex’s relationship with Streisand starts on an odd and very funny note, when they haggle passionately over the price of an item that Streisand, obviously, already owns. But as Streisand grows to enjoy their repartee, Alex becomes a trusted confidant, getting more and more uncomfortably intertwined with the star. And of course, that level of intimacy comes with a price.
The barebones staging by director Stephen Brackett, which employs light projections and easily re-arranged furniture to indicate location shifts, allows Urie to shine with few distractions. Although Tolins’ script plays most directly to gay fans of a certain age, in Urie’s wildly gesticulating hands this show will go down like butta’, even for those with passing interest in Babs. A?
(Tickets: buyerandcellar.com or 212-868-4444)