An Underground Passion for a Star’s Stuff: ‘Buyer & Cellar,’ With Michael Urie

David Rooney in The New York Times:

Buyer-popupSince the dawn of time — well O.K., since the mid-’60s — gay men have been fiercely divided into love-her or hate-her camps by their feelings for Barbra Streisand. The intensity of those relationships is perhaps equaled by the subject’s self-regard, at least based on the evidence of her hilariously unnecessary 2010 coffee-table book, “My Passion for Design.” The volume is a personal tour and chronicle of the creation and construction of Ms. Streisand’s extensive Malibu compound, a “dream refuge” that includes a Connecticut-style mill house and water wheel. (Why not?) The author is also credited as principal photographer for the book, available in both regular and limited signed-and-numbered deluxe editions, the latter in a cloth-covered box that also includes a DVD, directed and narrated by… guess who? A steal at $500! But even in the more modest $60 version, this is a jaw-dropping digest of narcissism, obsessive folly and stifling tastefulness, which makes it a delicious target for satire. Jonathan Tolins has turned this tome into a springboard for “Buyer & Cellar,” a featherweight but irresistible play about celebrity false bonding, the solitude of über-fame and the seductive allure of expensive chintz.

A wonderful solo vehicle for Michael Urie to purvey his wicked winsomeness, the show, which opened on Wednesday at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, is a work of extravagant fiction, albeit one rooted in bizarre fact. The sheer excess of Babs-ylonia is of less interest to Mr. Tolins than the actual underground Main Street in the basement of a barn on the estate. Inspired by Winterthur, the American decorative arts museum in Delaware, it’s an avenue of quaint storefronts — a doll shop, an antiques emporium, a gift shoppe, a vintage clothing boutique, etc. — all built to house Ms. Streisand’s vast collection of “stuff.” “Remember, this is the part that’s real,” Mr. Urie says before he slips into character, with a nod of complicity that reads, “Crazy, right?” That character is Alex More, a struggling gay Los Angeles actor licking his wounds after being fired as the mayor of Toontown at Disneyland. The play’s cheeky premise is that since Ms. Streisand has fabricated herself a shopping mall with one customer, it also requires an employee to run it. That’s where the freshly hired Alex comes in. Idling away his days in this subterranean arcade with only the purr of the frozen yogurt machine for company, he is a symbol for the indignities endured by out-of-work actors in survival jobs. But Alex’s boredom is instantly forgotten when his employer pops downstairs to browse.

More here. (Note: This is the best play I have seen in NY in the last year! Go immediately if you can!)