Buyer & Cellar explores Barbra Streisand’s (make-believe) basement shopping mall | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Buyer & Cellar explores Barbra Streisand’s (make-believe) basement shopping mall 

It's only pain and darkness there.

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Heather Mall

Like a cross between The Santaland Diaries and Sunset Boulevard, Jonathan Tolins's 2013 one-man comedy sends up the lifestyle of the haves through the eye of the have-nots. Inspired by Barbra Streisand's book My Passion for Design, it's the story of struggling LA actor Alex More (Scott Gryder) who takes a job in the make-believe shopping mall in the basement of Streisand's Malibu estate and is horrified to learn how the other half really lives.

More is gobsmacked when he learns, after signing a nondisclosure agreement, who his employer is. What follows is a series of surreal scenes culminating in what More thinks is a real moment of connection with one of his idols. But when he's unceremoniously shown his walking papers, he realizes the danger of getting too familiar with those who live on pedestals.

It is a tribute to Tolins's quick, witty words and, especially, to Gryder's complete command of the stage that a play about an imaginary mall in Barbra Streisand's basement turns out to be so compelling. I don't have a clue what appeal Streisand could hold for anyone, but More's absolute devotion to her and the spotless glamorous lifestyle she represents is thoroughly believable (if kind of sad). People like Streisand who live in a megalomaniacal bubble can't allow meaningful relationships with others or they risk puncturing the perfection they've worked so hard to fashion. The only people sadder than those inside the bubble are the ones on the outside eager to get in. More is lucky to have been banished and we're happy for him to live his own life rather than prop up someone else's delusions. Donterrio Johnson directed.   v

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