Rosemary Laughlin/review | Much to love about Station's one-man show

Rosemary Laughlin/review | Much to love about Station's one-man show

By ROSEMARY LAUGHLIN

The pun in the title of "Buyer & Cellar" suggests clever wordplay ahead. But the humor turns out to be much more based on a preposterous-but-real place — the storefronts in the basement of singer, movie star and Broadway performer Barbra Streisand's Malibu mansion.

Proof of its reality is a chapter in Streisand's coffee-table book, "My Passion for Design," with her descriptive text and many photographs.

Playwright Jonathan Tolins gives his take on this and Streisand's notorious insistence on perfection. The play's structure is a one-man narration from the curator-clerk, Alex More, a gay actor in Hollywood who has just lost his job at Disneyland and is delighted to be hired by the wondrous celebrity.

Coy Wentworth's portrayal of More is a tour de force. In a 100-minute performance without intermission, he describes the strange mini-mall for Streisand's collections, delivering as well the other parts in recalled dialogues with Streisand; her housekeeper, Sharon; and his boyfriend, Barry, a struggling Hollywood scriptwriter.

Wentworth throws himself into the role with controlled ebullience and confidence.

His precise articulation and timing are excellent for the overstated drama of his interpretation. He seems to me a natural ham, a born mimic; I could easily imagine him as the class clown through his school days. He is a master of rapport with his audience. His Brooklyn accent is flavorful and smoothly worked in where frequently called for.

There are various lodes of humor here — notably gay, Jewish, Brooklyn, Hollywood, Broadway, television and, of course, Streisand herself. They follow fast or are intermingled. The opening-night audience responded almost raucously to the jokes and innuendos. However, I was less appreciative, finding them too soon tedious and wishing the script had been shortened.

The production is impressive. The Station is turned into "another world," like Dorothy stepping from sepia into technicolor. Chris Guyotte designed and constructed the cellar exhibit areas with flair that extended to a leopard-spotted closet. Director Thom Schnarre did yeoman duty in assembling the props of old dolls, hats, wigs, dresses, Tiffany lamps and you-name-it "stuff."

Brian Hagy did sound and special effects that included music-box melody and bubbles blown by an antique French doll.

Within the humor, there are flashes of serious considerations. "Utopia" is Streisand's term for the "aspirations" she feels all people share, "to put ourselves in our own little world." Hers here is certainly a materialistic one — more a subterranean garage sale than a museum. She admits that as a little girl, her desire was to be pretty. She felt sorry for herself. More points that out as ironic, since her career saw her romantically linked with a host of famous men.

A theme the playwright said he wanted to convey was the difficulty in relationships where there is disparity in power, fame and money. True, More fails as a coach for Barbra in a new production of "Gypsy" and is fired. But this is minor. It's comedy that prevails, especially welcome as summer theatre fare.

Rosemary Laughlin is a writer and retired English teacher from University Laboratory High School.

Topics (1):Theater