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Buyer & Cellar

Buyer & Cellar
New Conservatory Theatre
Runs March 18th – May 8th, 2016

The joining of writer Jonathan Tolin’s brilliant script and J. Conrad Frank’s spectacular performance make for one of the finest one-man performance pieces of the season. This fictional piece, set in the  very real basement mall beneath Barbra Streisand’s Malibu home, is a wickedly funny look into eccentricity, the acquisition of objects d’art, false celebrity bonding and the cult of personality. The plot is simple – unemployed actor Alex Moore takes a job as the sole employee of the mall, its lone customer is Babs herself.  What could be a cheap shot gaze into the bizarre, self-absorbed world of one of the most famous of icons is made surprisingly engaging and even sympathetic in Tolin’s careful construction.

Based on Streisand’s self-indulgent coffee table book My Passion for Design, the narrative has Frank playing all the parts; Moore’s disdainful boyfriend Barry, Sharon the shopping mall manager, Babs herself and husband Josh Brolin, who makes a brief appearance to buy some frozen yogurt. It a bravura performance by Conrad, who switches characters on a dime and delivers the sometimes frenzied monologues with clarity and passion.

The play straddles the line between parody in the absurdity of Moore’s task and a compassionate insight into Streisand’s inner workings. A highlight is a ludicrous encounter with Streisand who tries to bargain on the purchase of one of her dolls. Moore quickly adapts to the unscripted improv challenge and won’t bargain down the made up price- that is until she returns with a phony discount coupon. It’s pure hilarity at its most surreal. There are so many fantastic one liners in the play to maintain the comic overtones, even when the direction takes a more serious look into the imagined loneliness and isolation of Streisand.


Moore’s character is sympathetic, especially when he convinces himself that Streisand is a new ‘friend’, who may even care about him. And we even empathize with his boss, who like other eccentric figures (Michael Jackson come to mind), find it difficult to connect and fear vulnerability. Director Rebecca Longworth keeps the pace natural and focused, with a simple, yet elegant Set Design by Devin Kasper. It’s J. Conrad  Frank ’s tour de force delivery of Tolin’s crisp words that raises this show to lofty heights.


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