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Buyer & Cellar at Pittsburgh Public Theater

It's mostly an excuse for playwright Tolins to unload a boatload of jokes about celebrities

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Tom Lenk in Buyer & Cellar, at Pittsburgh Public Theater - PHOTO COURTESY OF PITTSBURGH PUBLIC THEATER
  • Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Public Theater
  • Tom Lenk in Buyer & Cellar, at Pittsburgh Public Theater

Buyer & Cellar is making its local premiere at Pittsburgh Public Theater. But it's confusing, so pay attention.

In 2010, Barbra Streisand published My Passion for Design, a book in which she details the design, construction and outfitting of a home she built in Malibu. One of the joint's many interesting facets is that when it came time to create storage space for all her stuff, she didn't just stow it on shelves; she designed a 19th-century Parisian street in her basement, with various shops along the path to display her wares. There's a doll shop, antique store, clothing boutique, etc.

That's the reality. Here's the fiction: Playwright Jonathan Tolins figured that because Streisand had a mini-mall with only one customer, it would need one employee. He imagines an out-of-work actor, Alex Moore, hired to dress up like an old-timey clerk and wait on the lady of the house whenever she comes in pretending to shop.

Buyer & Cellar, then, is a one-man show in which an actor plays, among others, Moore, Streisand, James Brolin and Moore's boyfriend Barry. The script is a slight meditation on the cost of fame, but mostly an excuse for Tolins to unload a boatload of jokes about celebrities.

It's a testament to Tolins' comedic ability that even if you, like someone I won't mention, didn't spend your high school years locked in a bedroom listening to Streisand's music, you'll still "get" the show as much as I ... er, as much as that person I won't mention. I purposefully took a friend who knows nothing about Babs (why I even talk to him is another discussion), and he had a great time.

A lot of the credit goes to Tom Lenk, as Alex. You'd know him from Buffy and Angel, and he's such a charming, engaging performer that, with Don Stephenson's felicitous direction, the production acquires a certain depth that is, perhaps, not evident in the writing. I might not have agreed with all of his characterizations (a few of which are a hair short of caricature), but the sum total of Lenk's work is a wholly fun and funny evening of theater.

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