Dishy one-man show ‘Buyer & Cellar’ gives a perfect vehicle to star Michael Urie

Executive Editor


City Performance Hall,
2420 Flora St. Through Sept. 6.

Buyer & Cellar, which has a brief run (it closes Saturday) at City Performance Hall as part of ATTPAC’s new Off Broadway on Flora Series, is a strange yet wonderful play that, in the loosest sense could be considered historical fiction. It uses a real person (Barbra Streisand) and a real thing (her actual basement “mall,” a museum where she stores her Hoarders-like memorabilia) and creates a completely fake world around it.

The premise? Out-of-work actor Alex More (Michael Urie, who’s onstage nearly two hours straight without a sip of water or much of a pause to breathe) is hired to act as a sort of fake salesperson, curator and concierge, ready whenever Babs decides she wants to come and browse among her belongings.

The relationship turns out kind of weird: Streisand plays a cat-and-mouse game with Alex, pretending she’s “Sadie” at first, and actually haggling over the “price” of things she already owns. It all strikes Alex as some kind of strange improv session, but eventually they develop a close bond … but then, we all know Babs’ famous incompatibility. “I feel like a fly being swapped by a back issue of Architectural Digest,” he says.

Buyer & Cellar — written by Jonathan Tolins with an impressive mastery of miscellaneous Barbrana, and couching pop-culture allusions in almost every line of dialogue — most resembles another very gay play, The Santaland Diaries, in that one actor recounts a fantastical adventure in retail. But you might also think of it as I am My Own Drag Queen, another spin on a one-man show that plumbs interesting depths of character.

As Alex, Urie narrates his encounters with La Streisand (while reminding us, several times, that this is just a play and none of this ever happened), but also plays Barbra, James Brolin and a few other characters. (“I don’t impersonate her, enough people already do,” he warns us, “some even women.” But in fact he does “do” her, or at least conjure her, with a flick of hair and a pursed lip.)

But what he really does is more of a bravura marathon of comedy delights. He pulls faces with a cheery smile and a sparkle in his eye that’s totally winning; and there more mugging here than Central Park on New Year’s Eve. But it’s a virtuoso solo performance, one that, only when the show ends and you realize how exhausted you are watching it, impresses upon you what a masterful evening you’ve just watched.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 5, 2014.