Buyer and Cellar
Mad Cow Theater
By Jonathan Tolins
Directed by Phillip Nolan
Starring Louis Gravance
How can you tell if a guy is straight? He’s not all that impressed with Barbara Streisand. That’s not Alex More’s (Gravance) concern; he’s a diva lover of the first order and he’s fallen into his dream job from hell. In the artistic miasma of Los Angeles, Alex landed a job requiring an 85-minute commute from Anaheim to Malibu. But he’s now Barbara Streisand’s personal play toy. But not in a sexual way; rather Alex manages her personal basement shopping mall filled with 50 years of her hoarding. Now part confidant, part lap dog, he ad lib’s a fantasy world for her. Is he a true friend, or is she just using him to find a good color for her throw pillows?
None of this show’s action real, but all of it is true. Streisand’s mansion is modeled after “Summer Stock,” the mall has a frozen yogurt machine, and she’s obsessive about colors and fabrics. For Alex, it’s a nightmare and dream job, and he goes from acting as a salesman a doll shop to a frozen yogurt jerk to a confidant and ultimately an acting coach for a remake of Gypsy that, if the Gods love us, will never happen. Gravance sparkles and lames and dances about the set, acting out all the roles from Liza to his bewildered boyfriend to the Mama Rose from Gypsy. The stories and anecdote slither from mundane to surreal to personal. Liza is lonely, estranged from her friends, and too famous to just drive down to Dairy Queen and get a frozen yogurt and parking ticket.
Longtime local actor Phillip Nolan took this show as his intro to directing, and he’s nailed this personal and occasionally surreal tale of fame and misfortune. He mixes the deconstruction of celebrity worship with the joy of meeting your idol, and makes you want the story to be true. You don’t have to like Streisand to like this story, but it helps if your jaded by the celebrity cult we so often see in the checkout lane. If you have gay friends; bring them along. They can explain the subtext her way better than I ever can.