Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Buying In to Buyer and Cellar

Is there anything more Broadway than Barbra Streisand? 

Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust. 
Let's be honest: there's not.

So it's a good thing that Barbra came to Broadway via Minneapolis, in the form of Buyer and Cellar, the new show at the New Century Theater. Buyer and Cellar springs from the real book authored by Barbra Streisand called My Passion for Design. The book details Barbra's immaculate eye for the tiniest of details in (everything, honestly, but especially) decorating her own home. A real part of that home is an exquisitely re-created antique shopping mall in Barbra's real basement, which is where Buyer and Cellar takes root.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The play follows Alex, a struggling L.A. actor who finally finds work as the only "employee" of the stores in Barbra's basement. Although he thinks it strange at first, Alex finds unexpected fulfillment working in the "shops" and getting to know Barbra. Buyer and Cellar follows Alex's thought process through his hiring, working and quitting the basement shops, and shows a fascinating imagination into what it is really like to be Barbra Streisand.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
This is a one man show and may sound a little dry, but it holds up surprisingly well. Much of this is due to the inexhaustible Sasha Andreev, who plays each of his many characters with aplomb. Andreev was the perfect choice to play Alex; he has that sunny L.A. tan, the sashay-Shantay of a broke, gay L.A. actor, and the clear passion for his subject matter to hold our interest. Andreev describes Barbra with a startling clarity and makes Alex and Barbra seem like our long time friends.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
The set is very minimal, using only intermittent projections to place us in the basement, in Alex's apartment, or the few other possible settings. Costuming is equally minimal, as is the rest of the production design. This was a wise choice, as it leaves us space to concentrate fully on Alex and the fantastic tale he describes. As a note: there is no intermission in this show, so make sure to plan accordingly.

The best thing about Buyer and Cellar is the finely dotted line between reality and make believe. The show is a fiction, of course, but one has to wonder: how much of it is truly made up? Streisand is notoriously eccentric, and many of the scenarios imagined here can be seen as real-life possibilities. It really stirs the imagination and provides a fun exercise in picturing how the 1% really lives.
Photo courtesy of Hennepin Theatre Trust.
Buyer and Cellar is a perfect show for our TMI era. It provides a Kardashian-level privacy invasion into who Barbra Streisand may really be, and that holds enormous cultural appeal. Andreev creates a magnetic one man performance, and it's worth a visit. The show runs through April 24; click on this link for more information or to buy tickets.