RTP premiers ‘Buyer and Cellar’ – a one man show about Barbra Streisand’s basement mall
Buyer and Cellar opens this week at Richmond Triangle Players in Scott’s Addition, and the one-man show stars Dan Cimo in all six of the play’s roles, including a fictional version of an iconic actress and singer sure to offer plenty of room for laughs and heartache.
According to Dawn Westbrook-Boyd, the play’s director, the basis for the production is Barbra Streisand’s book about her mansion, “My Passion for Design.”
Westbrook-Boyd said, “That’s why [the author] Jonathan Tollins wrote it. He delved into the book and into her life in Malibu and put his twist on it… brought humor into it.”
For those yet unaware, the play literally takes place in the basement “mall” beneath Barbra Streisand’s mansion, modeled after an actual shopping mall in Delaware called “Winterthur.”
According to an essay written by Tollins about Streisand’s actual basement: “She has created a magical world of antique stores and candy shops, cobblestone lanes and lampposts beneath her three-acre estate. There’s even a doll shop and a gift shop, complete with a gift wrapping station.”
Image from Harpers Bazaar Magazine’s photo shoot of Streisand’s basement – check out more photos here
“On the surface level…it is about this guy who gets this weird job organizing stuff in Streisand’s basement,” Westbrook-Boyd said. ”Behind that is a touching, poignant message: what is the price of objects and what do they mean? It’s really meaningless without a heart.”
The play, while poking fun at Barbra, also seems to show off the singers softer side.
“Part of what’s so endearing about the script is that it’s honest to who Barbra is as a person,” he said. “It’s almost as if [Tollins] has pulled real quotes from interviews and inserted them. It’s never mean or cruel and I think that when you are watching the show or you read the script, you feel like you get to know this person better because of how honest it is to her.
“The play is good at portraying her, as well as the other side of her. The Barbra that we know and love and the Barbra that is a little more of a real person. We get to see her vulnerable.”
Many have commented in the past about the difficulties in working with Streisand in the numerous creative projects with her desire for perfection.
In Westbrook-Boyd’s director’s note, she quotes Streisand, “Men and women are measured by a different yardstick and that makes me angry. If a man is a perfectionist, a woman is a pain in the ass. If a man is forceful, a woman is pushy. If a man is commanding, a woman is demanding. If a man shows leadership, a woman is controlling.”
Westbrook-Boyd, on the plays portrayal of Streisand, said, “There are moments in the play that are important…like when she says ‘I just want everybody to care as much as I do…’ You can say that line authoritatively and be snippy and leave, but if you say it with commitment, and truly believe it, then that’s honest, and you can’t really hate that. It’s just who she is.”
Perfectionism seems a common theme with this production. Over the past few months Westbrook-Boyd and Cimo have worked to not just learn the lines and say them, but to “create” and “inhabit” all these different characters.
Besides Barbra and a cameo by Josh Brolin, the play centers around its narrator and protagonist Alex. He works in the basement mall, while dating a fellow mall employee named Barry. The story unfolds as all the other people pass through Barbra’s basement/mall.
At times Cimo said he felt “schizophrenic” keeping up with all the different characters.
“There are times where I’ll be narrating as Alex, but playing as Barbra…or telling the story as Barry, but moving as Alex…it’s really just this muscle that I’ve never used before,” Cimo said. “like working out, you start off slow, and the weights gradually increase.”
Over all, the challenge seems to have been worthwhile.
“Its fun, it’s really…the word I’ve been using is expanding,” he said about He said about playing the different roles and often conversing with himself during the production. “It’s just so stretching in so many different ways.”
Cimo said what he most wants from the play is for “everybody to have a fun…grab a couple of drinks…and enjoy the story.”
Buyer and Cellar previews this Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. It premiers the following night, Thursday, Oct. 8, also at 8 p.m. and runs through the end of the month.
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