Swanky Buyer & Cellar
As somebody who regularly peruses Zillow for unattainable multi-million-dollar mansions to criticize (ugh, I’d never buy this $4.2 million-dollar house – not with that hideous backsplash), 1812’s production of Jonathan Tolins’ one-man comedy, Buyer & Cellar, spoke to me on many levels. Dan O’Neil directs a hilarious and zippy production starring Dito Van Reigersberg (of Martha Graham Cracker fame) that cleverly satirizes fame, celebrity, Hollywood, design, and even coffee table books.
Walking down Delancey Street to the theater, where much of my “real estate porn” sits, I noted to my out-of-town companion how we were on one of the swankiest streets in the city. Upon arriving at Plays & Players Theatre, we were greeted with Christopher Haig’s equally swanky set – minimalist, very white, and both the set and lighting (designed by Maria Shaplin) are evocative of the kind of store that only displays four handbags. The show begins with an immediate fourth wall break, and then Dito Van Reigersberg morphs into Alex Moore, a gay struggling actor living in Los Angeles. Alex has recently been fired from Disneyland, but soon manages to score the job of a lifetime – working in Barbra Streisand’s basement. This might seem odd, except that Streisand has curated her belongings into a kind of shopping mall, a la the Winterthur Museum. We are reminded that is the true part, and it is indeed chronicled in Streisand’s book, My Passion for Design. The conceit is clever: What would happen if Barbra hired a salesperson for this private mall?
Reigersberg plays all the characters, yes, including Babs. He notes there will be no campy impersonations. Instead, Reigersberg is an impressionist painter and uses strokes like careful gestures and a Brooklyn-tinged accent to portray the funny girl. He also plays Barry; Alex’s screenwriter boyfriend, Sharon; the manager of the house, and a hilarious frozen yogurt-fetching James Brolin. Reigersberg makes each character distinct and full-bodied, and his comedic timing is as excellent as ever. The night I was there, a phone went off loudly announcing, “It is 9:00 PM!” Reigersberg, a master of improv, played it off well and provided an extra laugh (although, I personally wish that he had pulled a Barbra-as-Patti LuPone).
As Alex chooses to spend more and more time with Barbra, Barry and Alex’s relationship predictably falters. The unraveling is funny though, especially when Barry offers his scathing analysis of The Mirror Has Two Faces. While the play doesn’t get particularly deep with its satire, as I scrolled Zillow the next day, as I found myself thinking about the people in those houses instead of just their backsplashes.