In the opening scene of “Buyer & Cellar,” a delicious, partially true, one-man show, Alex More (Jai Rodriguez), a struggling actor in LA, assures us that this is a work of fiction. What is true is that there is a galleria in the basement of a barn in Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate. Inspired by her 2010 book, “My Passion for Design,” writer Tolins takes this truth and creates a hilarious world where one man services the whole mall for a single customer, Barbra herself.
Alex takes a job working as a shopkeeper for Barbra Streisand’s collection of expansive and expensive memorabilia housed in the basement. The custom-made private shopping mall, named Main Street, and modeled on a decorative arts museum elsewhere, boasts a doll shop, antique clothing boutique, gift shop and a frozen yogurt machine. It only serves one customer, Barbra herself. At the outset Alex is advised by the stern house manager to “Just remember, the customer is always right!”
At first Alex spends his time alone in the basement, cleaning, folding, dusting and playing with Barbra’s collection of dolls. One day the star comes to visit and play, and at first re-names herself “Sadie.” She haggles over the purchase price of a doll, that’s already hers to start with! Falling right into the game, Alex allows her to haggle but sticks to his price of $800. She leaves, accompanied by the tinkling sound of wind chimes that heralds all arrivals and departures from upstairs. She eventually returns, triumphantly waving a coupon for the purchase, the value of which brings the doll’s price back to her original offer. She pays him cash, which he soon has to return to the house manager. His unlikely friendship with the Diva develops into that of a trusted confidante, with some sad revelations of the insecurities and loneliness experienced by so many celebrities.
Alex heatedly discusses his relationship with his live-in, skeptical boyfriend, Barry, who questions why Alex is never invited upstairs to see the rest of the house. Alex moves around and across the sparsley-furnished stage to take on the persona and different roles of all the wonderfully portrayed characters, stopping short of impersonating Barbra Streisand, but easily identifying her by her well-known characteristics. He impersonates Barbra’s mate, James Brolin, who makes a brief appearance in search of frozen yogurt with sprinkles!
Jai Rodriguez never faltered during his masterful, seamless 90-minute solo performance. His characterizations are superb and believable. “Buyer & Cellar” is hilarious and thought provoking, and I highly recommend making the effort to attend before the show ends its run.
Set Designer Adam Flemming effectively and creatively uses colored light and various projections onto the back screen. Kudos to writer Tolins, Director Toscas and the entire production team.
The Falcon Theatre is a plush, intimate, 130-seat professional theatre with movie-theatre-type seats, operating year-round in Burbank, California. It was built by Director/Writer/Producer Garry Marshall and his daughter, Kathleen Marshall LaGambina. Mr. Marshall founded the Falcon as a place where established artists and emerging talent can come together to create exciting work on stage.
Written by: Jonathan Tolins
Directed by: Dimitri Toscas
Starring: Jai Rodriguez
Scenic and Projection Designer: Adam Flemming, Costume Designer: David Kay Mickelsen, Lighting Designer: Nick McCord, Sound Designer: Robert Arturo Ramirez, Props Designer: John M McElveney, Casting Director: Sandi Logan, CSA, Stage Manager: Dale Alan Cooke
Photos Credit: Sasha A Venola
Press Opening Night Oct. 14, and runs through Nov. 6 at the Falcon Theatre located at 4252 Riverside, Burbank, CA 91505.
Performances are Wed. through Sat. at 8pm and Sun. at 4pm.
Tickets, priced from $30-$45, online at The Falcon Theatre or by calling the Box Office at 818-955-8101. Box Office hours are Tue.-Fri. 12-6pm, Sat.-Sun. 10am-4pm, and 1 hour prior to show time on performance days. For more information, please visit