Michael Urie, known for his portrayal of Marc St. James on the TV series Ugly Betty, currently stars in “Buyers and Cellars,” at the Barrow Street Theatre, in a one-person production where he plays Barbra Streisand* and several other characters. The play imagines life with the great legend actress/singer. The playwright Jonathan Tolins was inspired by Streisand’s coffee table book “My Passion for Design,” which Streisand wrote, and for which she also shot all the photos. (It was published by Penguin Group in 2010.) The book is described as “a lavishly illustrated personal tour of the great star’s homes and collections,” and according to the book, the mega star turned the basement of her dream home in Malibu, into a mall, housing her vast collection of antiques and collectibles.
At the outset, making a disclaimer, so as not to anger the real Barbra Streisand, the character Alex Moore emphasizes that the book is real, but all that follows is fantasy. He says the playwright doesn’t want any lawsuits, and wryly makes reference to Streisand’s famous prickly personality, but with a tone that is no less fascinated and in love with the star, and comedic all the same. Alex Moore is hired as the shopkeeper who oversees antiques in Streisand’s cellar and waits for her unannounced visits. And when she does visit, it is as if she were visiting any mall as a stranger, in an understood and improvised exchange.
The play has received rave reviews. It is beautifully choreographed, the pacing is pitch perfect, a tour de force, which allows it to last for two straight hours without an intermission. One is carried away with Moore’s encounters with the great lady, and his fall back to earth, and his eventual return to his boyfriend who becomes progressively unimpressed.
The set is a minimalist white box within the black box of the theatre itself, and is transformed with simple and elegant lighting and projections on a wall.
It’s a play to definitely see. It has an open-ended run, check here.
* Barbra Streisand’s humble origins include that she’s from Williamsburg, Brooklyn!