Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

Buyer & Cellar
New Conservatory Theatre Center
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Richard's recent reviews of Middletown, An Act of God and On Clover Road and Patrick's recent reviews of Time Stands Still and Boeing Boeing

J. Conrad Frank
Photo by Lois Tema
J. Conrad Frank is holding forth as Alex More, the unemployed actor who was hired as custodian and clerk of the basement shoppes in Barbra Streisand's house, in Buyer & Cellar at the New Conservatory Theatre Center. I saw Michael Urie play the character at the Curran Theatre last year and I have to say J. Conrad Frank has made this role his own. He is just as good as and maybe a tad bit better than Mr. Urie.

Frank performs this wonderful solo work in the Walker Theatre, a small theatre in the three-theatre complex. The performer is only a few feet from the audience. He makes eye contact with a lot of the audience members as if he is talking to each one. It's an amazing performance.

The artist first says, "Before I tell you this story we need to get a few things straight. First, this is a work of fiction. You know that, right? I mean, the premise is preposterous. What I'm going to tell you could not possibly have happened with a person as famous, talented and litigious as Barbra Streisand". He then goes into wonderful stories about his time in the basement dusting, arranging, and playing with Barbra's dolls. Alex admits he is not a Streisand queen or even a Judy Garland queen.

Ms. Streisand comes down to visit him and he starts to see that she is a regular person with anxieties and worries despite all of her money. She shares with Alex her story of growing up in poverty and no one telling her that she was pretty. She finally confides in him that a producer wants her to star in Gypsy. She does not want to go back on the stage and do eight shows a week, and they have suggested a film version. There are stories about Barry, Alex's boyfriend, who is afraid he is losing Alex to Barbra. There is also a charming story of meeting Barbra's husband James Brolin in the basement.

Bottom Line: Buyer & Cellar is wonderful, not just because of J. Conrad Frank's marvelous performance, but playwright Jonathan Tolins so proficiently clinches both sides of Barbra Streisand. Rebecca Longworth beautifully directs this 94-minute piece and Devin Kasper has designed a striking living room set for the small stage.

Buyer & Cellar runs through April 24th, 2016, at the Walker Theatre of the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave at Market, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-861-8972 or visit Coming up next is the new version of Burton Lane, Alan Jay Lerner, and Peter Parnell's On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.

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