“Buyer and Cellar”
Jonathan Tolins’ hilarious one man show, “Buyer and Cellar,” is currently enjoying a blissful production at Theaterworks. As masterfully directed by Rob Ruggiero and starring the virtuosic Tom Lenk, this is the kind of show that goes by ultra-smoothly, with a plethora of laughs and even some touching moments, as well. It should be mentioned that Jonathan Tolins’ giddy play focuses on everything Barbra Streisand, including most especially her home and the “mall” in her basement. For a Streisand fanatic like me, this evening of theatre is something like heaven, but, even if you aren’t as big a fan of this diva, “Buyer and Cellar” is still enormously entertaining and expertly written. And Tom Lenk’s star performance is completely and utterly wonderful, rendering this production of “Buyer and Cellar” at Theaterworks an absolute must.
The plot of “Buyer and Cellar,” such as it is, is that an unemployed actor, Alex More (played by Tom Lenk), has been hired by Barbra Streisand to work in the mall under her home. This amusing concoction of a story is inspired by Streisand’s hardcover coffee table book, “My Passion for Design,” which is prominently displayed and referenced throughout the show. “Buyer and Cellar” is primarily Jonathan Tolins’ inspired and delirious riff on Streisand’s book and it is stated right from the start that the play is strictly a work of fiction and the events occurring throughout the show never actually happened. Still, this writer’s imagination is considerable and he has come up with quite a series of scenes to tickle the funnybone.
Of course, “Buyer and Cellar” would never work as well without a talented performer in the lead. Theaterworks is blessed to have the marvelous Tom Lenk as its star and he skillfully enacts not only the character of Alex More, but all the other characters in the play, as well, including, most divinely, Barbra Streisand herself. Tom Lenk does not attempt an impersonation of Barbra, but it is always clear throughout when the diva is portrayed onstage, thanks to an array of carefully chosen mannerisms and a change in the actor’s voice. In fact, Tom Lenk is so skillful that he can change characters in a moment’s notice, often to hilarious effect. The playwright has supplied a steady stream of funny lines and jokes throughout the show and Tom Lenk is a wizard at keeping “Buyer and Cellar” happily spinning from beginning to end.
Director Rob Ruggiero works wonderfully well with his leading actor and, together, they milk every moment and line in “Buyer and Cellar” for all it is worth. Also aiding this process is the luscious set design by Luke Hegel-Cantarella, and the lighting and video projection design by Rob Denton is pretty wonderful, too. And while the show can occasionally feel a tad long (nearly two hours with no intermission), “Buyer and Cellar” is always consistently entertaining and passes by like a beautiful (and often hysterically amusing) dream.
As mentioned, “Buyer and Cellar” is most especially geared to Barbra Streisand fans, but the show should appeal to just about everyone. Theaterworks’ delightful production of “Buyer and Cellar” is everything one could ask for, and, indeed, the show would be worth seeing just to see the amazing Tom Lenk at work. So, by all means, go to see “Buyer and Cellar” at Theatreworks and, if it so happens that you are already a worshiper of all things Streisand (as this writer is), this show is sure to be just the ticket.
“Buyer and Cellar” continues performances at Theaterworks in Hartford, CT through February 14. For tickets, please visit www.theaterworkshartford.org or call the box office at 860-527-7838.