Jonathan Tolins’ “Buyer & Cellar” with Michael Urie at Barrow Street Theatre

Last night I attended a performance of Jonathan Tolins’ play “Buyer & Cellar” starring Michael Urie at the Barrow Street Theatre in Greenwich Village, NYC.  This was a total delight, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Of course, I was predisposed to like it, because I am a big fan of Michael Urie, who is one of the most adorable openly-gay leading men in theater, films and television.  I remember seeing him in “The Temperamentals” and “Angels in America.”  I ordered the DVD of the film “Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life” because a former student of mine is one of the producers, and I was delighted to discover that Michael Urie had a major part in the film, and he was just superb!! 

I’m also a fan of Jonathan Tolins.  His play, “The Twilight of the Golds,” which was made into a terrific film, is a very important contribution to debates about the nature of human sexuality and the ability of people to accept sexual differences.

When you put these two together, there is no way I was not going to like this.  And so it goes….

I wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone by giving away any of the great lines or plot twists, but it is reasonably well known that this play was inspired by Barbra Streisand’s book, “My Passion for Design,” in which the great pop diva provided text and photos about the estate she designed for herself in Malibu, California.  Tolins seized upon an interesting detail: as a way to display and have access to all the marvelous dresses, dolls, and assorted other tchochkes she had accumulated over the years, she had an underground shopping street built beneath the barn, a virtual subterranean shopping mall.  In an article in the Playbook for this show, Tolins is quoted as having mused to a friend after seeing this book, “I’d like to meet the guy who works down there.”  And then he went on to imagine a 90 minute monologue by an out-of-work gay actor who takes the job, and it is hilarious!  (And also, as he repeats over and over again, entirely fictitious.)

So, this is like spending about 90 minutes with the delightful Michael Urie as he tells the story of his adventure being “the guy who works down there” at Barbra Streisand’s basement shopping mall.  Incredible!!  Wonderful!!   You can tell from the get-go that Urie is having a wonderful time performing this.  It gives him a chance to create several fascinating characters.  It is also quite a workout, since he is on stage continuously for 90 minutes, and director Stephen Brackett has him moving about quite a bit, so it is very lively and he certainly gets some exercise doing this.  He’s not just sitting there and talking at you for an hour and a half.

The play was first presented at Rattlestick Theater Company for a limited run, but it did so well that it transferred up a notch to the Barrow Street Theatre.  Urie’s performance at Rattlestick won the Drama Desk Award, the Clarence Derwent Award, and nominations for the Drama League and Outer Critics Circle awards.  See it, see it see it, and laugh your head off.

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