Buyer & Cellar 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Review of Buyer & Cellar
By Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Sarah Muirhead

For tickets & schedule:
www.6thstreetplayhouse.com
6th Street Playhouse
Santa Rosa, CA

RUN: February 3-19, 2017
RATING: 3 of 5 stars

(February 4, 2017)

Buyer & Cellar is a whimsical story sparked by the unique interior design of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu home where she chose to display her collections in a European style mall complete with Bee’s Doll Shop, antique shops, and a candy store with frozen yogurt. Playwright Jonathan Tolins was captivated by the attention to detail, and speculated on what it would be like to work in the faux stores, waiting for their one customer to arrive.

Enter struggling actor Alex More (Patrick Varner) who has been reduced to job hunting after being banished from the Magic Kingdom for an incident in Mickey’s Toontown. His dubious reaction to playing a part in the mall transforms into obsession with Streisand’s world; he throws himself into the role, creating elaborate backstories for the dolls, becoming consumed with his work. His relationship suffers for it, causing bittersweet exchanges with his boyfriend, both portrayed with unrelenting energy by Varner, who slips between characters with expressive physicality.

Buyer & Cellar 6th Street Playhouse

Photo by Eric Chazankin

Buyer & Cellar is pleasant throughout, with moments of intense contemplation, but it does not fully succeed as either a fluffy comedy or darker introspection of how important the impact of a distressing childhood can be. It flirts with both, and while the humor is amusing, the play is not a stand-out comedy. 6th Street’s production is strongest in the delightful performance of Varner, who is fascinating throughout the one act play, taking scenes that could have lagged in the hands of a less competent actor and focusing them into vivid pieces of imagination. Sam Tansleau’s elegantly simple set design becomes filled with glittering vintage gowns, picturesque barnyards, and a cramped Los Angeles apartment through the power of Varner’s storytelling and tight direction from Sarah Muirhead.

Buyer & Cellar is an escape into a universe of opulence and eccentricity, away from the demands of everyday work and disturbing news reports. Enjoy a frivolously diverting evening at the theater with a talented actor to forget your worries and spend time in Barbra Streisand’s extraordinary cellar.