Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Having seen a previous staging of this play, there is something special in seeing Michael Urie recreate his brilliant performance for new audiences. In a way, he owns the role and he is able to elicit laughs just from rolling his eyes and changing his facial expression. While it could be argued that Buyer & Cellar is a play most appreciated by Barbra Streisand fanatics (which definitely includes me), the show is often so hilarious and inventive that it's likely to entertain just about any audience member.
For those new to the play, the plot is something of a reverie that playwright Jonathan Tolins has concocted in response to Streisand's coffee table book "My Passion for Design." The book mentions that she has created a shopping mall in the basement of her Malibu home. Tolins imagines a scenario in which out of work actor Alex More (Michael Urie) is hired simply to take care of Streisand's mall.
Michael Urie plays the role of Alex More splendidly and also takes on all the other characters, including, most crucially, Barbra Streisand. Director Stephen Brackett is wise to keep Urie from actually doing an impersonation of the star: instead, through the use of a different tone of voice and specific mannerisms, he fully embodies Barbra, and it is always clear when she is onstage. The same goes for all the other characters, such as Alex's boyfriend Barry and, in a very funny scene, James Brolin. Urie is like a chameleon onstage and he is able to create an entire world simply through the use of his acting skills.
The Westport Country Playhouse production of Buyer & Cellar is a real hoot and, although the play may feel just a bit too long (100 minutes with no intermission), one is usually laughing so hard that it is hard to notice. While the show is filled with wonderfully funny lines and sequences, there are also touching moments sprinkled throughout, as well. Returning to a role that earned him several major awards, Michael Urie is just sensational and quite a ball of energy; he seems to get better as the play goes along. Though this excellent staging of Buyer & Cellar will be shown on PBS at some point, Urie is such a brilliant performer that it is worth the trip to see him live in the theater.
Buyer & Cellar continues performances at the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT through July 3, 2016. For tickets, please visit www.westportplayhouse.org or call the box office at 203-227-4177.