Robert Tanitch reviews Buyer & Cellar at Menier Chocolate Factory, London SE1
Barbra Streisand published a picture book about her Malibu house and the boutique shopping mall she had created in her basement to house clothes, costumes, antiques and dolls.
Playwright Jonathan Tolins imagined what it would be like to manage the mall and meet Streisand. He turned his fantasy into a solo performance and got Michael Urie (whom you may have seen on television in Ugly Betty) to play all the roles.
The characters include an out-of-work actor, Streisand, Streisand’s secretary, Streisand’s husband and the actor’s boy friend. The instant transition from one character to another is skilful and very subtle; the body and facial language are perfect.
The script is camp, witty and bitchy. The fantasy conversations between actor and actress are particularly enjoyable and quite surreal when she attempts to buy one of her dolls and they haggle over the price.
The performance is as much about the lonely out-work actor (who has nothing) as it is about the lonely Streisand (who has it all). The actor admits that if he had to choose between being a slave in a fantasy world and being with his boy friend in the real world, he would choose the fantasy.
The charming and talented Michael Urie is as totally at ease with the audience as they are with him. He is a first-rate story-teller and the preposterous fiction feels like fact.