If you love to laugh and don’t mind poking a little fun at some serious flaws in our superstars, this show is sure to tickle your funny bone and make you glad to be ordinary.by Dave Christner, Newport Mercury
Three primary factors are of equal importance in the successful production of a monologue play: First, a great script is essential; second, a multi-talented actor is required, and third, a director who knows how to get the most out of an actor doesn’t hurt the cause.
In “Buyer & Cellar,” now at Warren’s 2nd Story Theatre after a brief run at Contemporary Theater Company in Wakefield, all three of the factors are more than adequately satisfied, and this show is probably about as good as it could possibly get, either here or in New York.
Playwright Jonathan Tolins’ script is not only a dream come true for an actor, but is as well a howling Category 5 hurricane of laughs for the audience. The performance of the enormously talented Kevin Broccoli in the lead (and every other) role is something of a magnum opus for the young actor, and Lara Hakeem, in her 2nd Story directorial debut, shows all the insight and creative ingenuity of a seasoned professional in her handling of the material and the show’s technical requirements.
The script is funny, engaging and at times quite touching. You hear a great deal about the quirks of superstar Barbra Streisand, her numerous, not to mention amorous, leading men, and you learn something of her childhood dreams and regrets. While it is clear that Tolins admires and respects Streisand’s talent, he has no qualms whatsoever about mining her idiosyncrasies for their humor and entertainment value.
The plot, such as it is, couldn’t be simpler: Alex More (Broccoli), a struggling out-of-work actor in LA, lands a job as the sole caretaker of a private underground mall in the Malibu mansion of singer, actress, director, producer and funny girl Streisand. Broccoli tells Tolins’ tale through a host of different characters, including Streisand, James Brolin, Streisand’s mentor Arthur Laurents, and More’s main squeeze, Barry, a spurned screenwriter with an ax to grind.
Broccoli morphs from one character into another with the ease of a barkeep mixing cocktails, not only altering his voice to assume a new identity but also taking on all the physical aspects of a totally different persona. His body language goes from hulking to sulking in the bat of an eye, and his facial expressions never fail to coincide with the move into a new character. When More is carrying on a conversation between two characters, Broccoli is playing both characters and has to change his persona with the delivery of each line. This is not an easy task, but Broccoli executes it flawlessly.
Hakeem does a superb job of keeping Broccoli on track. A single actor playing so many different roles simultaneously faces the challenge of maintaining focus without overextending himself or herself. Broccoli’s performance is perfectly paced under Hakeem’s careful tutelage, neither speeding through scenes so fast that content is compromised nor slowing things down so much that the show’s energy wanes. Hakeem and Broccoli are a perfectly matched pair.
This production of “Buyer & Cellar” is a little theatrical gem that you miss at your own expense. It’s a gleaming star in a dreary sea of deadly monologue plays that harass and harangue rather than inspire and entertain. If you love to laugh and don’t mind poking a little fun at some serious flaws in our superstars, this show is sure to tickle your funny bone and make you glad to be ordinary.