Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of An Afternoon of Operetta
I have been a fan of Mr. Tolins' work since seeing his play The Twilight of the Golds many years ago. It was the work of a youthful playwright, imperfectly realized but with a fascinating premise. His writing and producing credits include several television series, as well as the Fox live TV musicals Grease and A Christmas Story.
Buyer & Cellar is Tolins' breakout hit. It ran successfully Off-Broadway in 2013-14 starring Michael Urie, and was followed by a national tour in which Urie recreated his performance. The play tells the story of an out of work actor named Alex More who takes a job as curator/salesperson at Barbra Streisand's underground mall, attached to her home, where she is the only customer.
I first laid eyes on Chris Crawford in Larry Shue's The Foreigner at American Stage a bunch of years ago. Since then, I have enjoyed Chris in My Name is Asher Lev and Peter and the Starcatcher. As Alex More, Crawford gives a bravura, tour de force performance, covering the obvious gayness of the character but also the emotional warmth. His pale blue eyes sparkle with the joy of being close to her royal wonderfulness, Babs. Along the way, Tolins suggests that Ms. Streisand's public persona is an acting part, never allowing a real emotional depth to come through. Is he correct or not? I certainly don't know, but the play is an interesting glimpse of huge celebrity.
Direction is in the hands of freeFall's resident dramaturg, Timothy Saunders. This is his first time directing at this theater, although he has directed productions at regional theaters in other areas of the country. He does a fine job, keeping the show physically open. Tom Hansen's set design is brilliant, a series of cabinet-style doors open to allow the many visuals called for in the script, and a staircase, center stage rear, leading up to the real house is evocative. Artistic Director Eric Davis is credited for the costume, really an everyday street ensemble. Dalton Hamilton's lighting design gives some variety to a static setting.
Buyer & Cellar should prove a big hit for freeFall, appealing to their core audience and Tampa Bay audiences in general.
Buyer & Cellar, through June 9, 2019, at freeFall Theatre, 6099 Central Avenue, St. Petersburg FL. For ticket and performance information, visit www.freefalltheatre.com.
Cast: Alex More: Chris Crawford*