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Theatre Review: Buyer And Cellar



A new comedy at the B Street Theatre is a one-man show about an unemployed actor hired to staff a boutique inside the Malibu estate of Barbra Streisand -- she is the only customer. Theatre critic Jeff Hudson says the show is an entertaining tall tale about a close encounter with a celebrity.

Barbra Streisand has lawyers, so this play opens with a disclaimer. Performer Nick Cearley makes it clear the whole story is made up. He also announces that even though he’s going to deliver lines attributed to Streisand, he is not going to wear a dress and impersonate the star.

Nick: I don’t do impressions in general and there are enough people who do her, even some women. I don’t know.

Gay humor is a big part in this sardonic show. But mostly, it’s an imaginary yarn about a guy slaving in the basement of a movie star, prepping for the moment when the lady of the house drops in.

Nick: There’s a doll shop, an antique store, a gift shoppe, where they sell extra p’s and e’s apparently.

And just when you least expect it, Streisand drops in, to “buy” a gift. She likes to dicker over price, which makes for an odd retail transaction, since she’s the boss. But eventually, a deal is struck. The relieved clerk offers to wrap the gift for pickup later.

And since he wants this fake shopping experience to feel authentic, he poses a question:

Nick: OK, and what name should I hold that under?

She looked panicked! As if like me, she hadn’t thought that far ahead. It was like she wasn’t used to letting in a stranger, let alone one that she paid to spend five days a week… in her basement.”

Pinch yourself – this is a fantasy. But energetic actor Nick Cearley almost convinces you it’s real. And he is something to watch – shifting back and forth between five characters, including Streisand. Cearly does it all within a cramped set, which is part of the charm.

The play delivers 90 minutes of nimble, humorous storytelling, poking fun at lifestyles of the rich and famous. Several scenes gently throb with dramatic possibilities, but they always conclude in the refuge of a well-told joke.

Fans of breezy comedy will enjoy this gabby, imaginary silhouette of a longtime celebrity. But I couldn’t help feeling that playwright Jonathan Tolins might have accomplished something more, if he’d chosen to go there. 

The play is called “Buyer and Cellar” – that’s Cellar with a C – and it continues at Sacramento’s B Street Theatre through May 9.

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