Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
Buyer & Cellar
Buyer & Cellar is a remarkably clever and catty riff written by Jonathan Tolins. His point of departure is the "mall" that Barbra Streisand had built in the basement of the barn (that Tolins surmises she copied from the Judy Garland movie Summer Stock) on her Malibu estate. One can read about it in her 2010 book "My Passion for Design," a coffee-table vanity project that Oprah called "aspirational," meaning that one can aspire to reach such a pinnacle of good taste some day. If you're Oprah or Barbra, anything's doable. The rest of us can only dream.
Barbra created this little subterranean group of shops to house her collection of stuff accumulated over the years: her costumes from stage and screen go in the dress shop; dolls are on display in the doll shop; and, for some reason, there's a shop with frozen yogurt and popcorn. Of course, it's not open to the public, so the only "customer" would be Barbra herself. She can't go out in public, so what else is she supposed to do for shopping therapy? It's so lonely at the top.
Tolins imagines what would happen if Barbra hired a shopkeeper for her mall, so there would be someone to sell her the things she already owns. Just for the fun of it. And great fun it is. We get a hilarious 80-minute monologue by the fictional Alex, an out-of-work Los Angeles actor. The poor guy sits for days at a time with nothing to do, but when Barbra condescends to descend, his improv skills get some exercise, and it's side-splittingly funnyas well as a little bit sad. Really sharp writing by Mr. Tolins.
The actor playing Alex also has to impersonate Barbra (but says he doesn't "do" her), Alex's screenwriter boyfriend Barry, James Brolin (the current Mr. Streisand), and Barbra's estate manager, and maybe one or two more. It's a workout, without a moment's rest, and Logan Scott Mitchell's great achievement as Alex was not only that he carried it off flawlessly, but that he made the play seem too short. I wasn't at all ready to say goodbye to Alex or Logan.
Logan is one of those people who make you realize, one more time, how unequal the distribution of talent is. Not only is he good-looking and an excellent singer and dancer (you might have seen him in Gypsy or Spamalot), but has now proved himself to be a wonderful young actor too, with immense likability on stage. I'm counting on him to bring renown to his home town of Albuquerque someday soon.
This production was deftly directed by Robb Anthony Sisneros, who has been responsible for bringing us a lot of great musicals, but he said in a curtain speech that it was Logan's idea to do this play and to have it be a benefit for a local charity. They chose Common Bond, which provides emergency housing and funds for low-income people living with HIV. Let's just canonize Logan now and get it over with.
Even though it's a one-person show, there are others who should be also recognized. Chad Morgan did a great job with the lighting, which is not easy because the staging was in the round (actually, a square) and Logan moved all over the place; and Nathan Herrera did spot-on sound design. And thanks to Musical Theatre Southwest for letting their space be used for a non-musical.
Once again: If Logan is available, please bring this show back for another run.
Buyer & Cellar, by Jonathan Tolins, was presented at Musical Theatre Southwest's black box space in Albuquerque on January 9 and 10, 2016.