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Arts & Culture

“Buyer & Cellar” A Charming Fictional Story About A Real Celebrity

Just when you think you can’t possibly handle another one-person show, along comes “Buyer & Cellar” presented by Lake George Dinner Theatre at the Charles Wood Theater in Glens Falls. It’s a charming 90-minute piece about a fictional person, working in a fictional location for a celebrity so popular she is almost fictional herself.

The inspiration for “Buyer & Cellar” comes from Barbra Streisand’s 2010 coffee table book “My Passion for Design.” It speaks to her dream of creating a mall in the basement of her Malibu home in order to save her memorabilia and personal collections of antique dolls and vintage clothing. In playwright Jonathan Tolin’s quirky imagination the cellar is laid out with quaint little shops. It even has a frozen yogurt station. Think of it as organized hoarding.

An unemployed actor, Alex More, (who just got fired from Disneyland, because of his impatience with annoying kids), is hired to keep the place clean, organized and service the customers – of whom there is only one – Ms. Streisand herself. He comes to learn there are few bigger or more spoiled kids in the world than those with privilege and money.

By the way, the play takes great pains to point out this is not a true story and could not “possibly have happened with a person as famous, talented and litigious as Barbra Streisand.”

But Tolins probably shouldn’t be too worried about being sued. Actually, Streisand turns out to be a rather decent person, even as she becomes a stand-in for all indulged celebrities with too much time on their hands. Yes, the singer-producer-actress is often a comic foil, but she rarely comes across as a mean or intolerant person. Indeed, the play humanizes this aloof and isolated figure.

One the funniest bits is the famed singer haggling with More to buy an item she already owns. As she finally schemes to get her price for the doll you can see the interplay as one of the rare times she gets to feel like a real person. It also legitimizes her memories of a deprived childhood in Brooklyn when her only doll was a hot water bottle.

As I said, “Buyer & Cellar” is a work filled with subtle humor, but the work of actor Shayne David Cameris, as directed by Jarel Davidow, makes it richer. Cameris is an actor, first and foremost, but he also understands a comic moment. As such, he does not accentuate every punch line of a potential joke. Instead of laugh-out-loud moments the comedy comes from the situation and human nature.

In the same way, the actor does not play the gay Alex More as a flamboyant stereotype. He allows More to go overboard in his admiration of celebrity and his responses when in the presence of a genuine star, but it is a relatable reaction that almost everyone in the audience would have in a similar situation. Cameris plays More as an extremely self-aware person who becomes very attuned to his being emotionally seduced by an icon.

Besides creating an endearing Alex More, Cameris – without trying to impersonate Streisand, makes her a distinctive presence. He also creates a stuffy personal assistant, a jealous, insecure boyfriend and a stoically comic portrait of Streisand’s husband, James Brolin, along with several other minor figures.

What makes the work and the production more than a one-note simplistic evening is that it also shows how people can be trapped by their own celebrity. The friendship that develops between the lady of the house and the employee in the basement is sincere. But it is, in its own way, delusional.

The point to “Buyer and Cellar” is that people who live in different worlds tend to stay trapped in their own worlds. It also shows that to the other each world can seem a bit comical. Therefore, the only logical conclusion for happiness it to enjoy the life you lead in the world in which you exist. Such a lesson is a real bonus in comic play.

“Buyer & Cellar” plays at the Wood Theater in Glens Falls through September 19. Four local restaurants are offering specials or discounts to ticket buyers. For more information call 518-480-4878 or go to woodtheater.org. Proof of vaccination is needed for entry and a face mask is strongly recommended inside the theater.

Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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