Stages

Review: Scott Gryder Revels in Barbra’s Basement in Pride’s Buyer and Cellar

You’ve probably heard the story since Buyer and Cellar has been around since 2013. In fact, actor Michael Urie recently reprised his award-wining performance in a livestream by Broadway.com as a benefit. The “cellar” is Barbra Streisand’s basement, where a young man is hired to manage the “shoppes” and keep the frozen yogurt machine humming.

In a virtual reading by Pride Films and Plays, Scott Gryder plays Alex Moore, an unemployed actor, who gets a much-needed job managing this rather special retail mall for an unidentified client. His Banana Republic experience gets him the job. The Jonathan Tolins script is directed by Donterrio Johnson. Gryder initiated the role in Pride’s 2019 staging..

Alec is delighted when he finds out the client is that gay icon Barbra Streisand. That makes his 85-minute drive from his apartment to her Malibu estate worthwhile. He and his boyfriend Barry speculate about all the dirt Alex will learn about Barbra. (Before he starts work, he has to sign a lot of papers, so probably not.) Alex has read Barbra’s book, My Passion for Design, so he’s all set to see the private fantasy mall that Streisand has created to display her collections of clothing, jewelry and tchotchkes. He finds a narrow street (paved with cobblestones, of course) of boutiques that include an antique doll store and a dress shop stocked with Streisand’s favorite film costumes.

Zoom screen shot.

Alex’s job? Keep everything clean and orderly and be ready for an occasional visit by La Streisand. Sometimes she comes to the cellar for a frozen yogurt (coffee flavor, large cup, lots of rainbow sprinkles) or to bargain over an item in one of her shoppes. At first their relationship is stiff, but gradually they become friendly and almost pals. But not quite.

Gryder is electric and animated and makes us forget we’re watching something “virtual.” He says he’s not going to “do” Streisand, but he does a very good job of slipping into her familiar accent and then later, adopting a deeper tone when her husband James Brolin arrives to order frozen yogurt (coffee flavor, large cup, lots of rainbow sprinkles).

During one of their conversations, Alex asks her if there’s anything she would change about her life. “I’d be pretty,” she says (the lament of any plain girl). Of course, Streisand’s charisma and style long ago took her beyond any need for prettiness.

Zoom screen shot.

The high point of Alex’s job is when Streisand asks if he would like a tour of the house. Trying to suppress his excitement, he says yes. And his employer takes him on a tour of the upstairs of the barn and then to the main house. He observes calmly that it’s all done in Early American style, very expensive Early American style. (I was shocked, having gotten over my interest in early American furniture by the age of 24. What would I have expected of Streisand’s taste? Perhaps Art Deco or Vienna Secession or at least Biedermeier. Not Early American. )

Buyer and Cellar ran 90 minutes with no intermission. After a brief talkback with the audience (80 viewers), Gryder sang a sweet version of “People,” the Jule Styne/Bob Merrill song from Funny Girl.

Pride Films and Plays will continue its “Pride in Place” series, with two more plays to be performed live by actors from their own homes via Zoom meeting technology. Reserve your place for $10 (plus an optional donation) and you’ll receive the viewing link in advance of show time. Here are the two final plays, both at 7pm. See more info and ticket links here.

Sunday, June 28: The Last Sunday in June by Jonathan Tolins.

Thursday, July 1: Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love by Brad Fraser.

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