REMEMBER: THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT!
Let’s get the underlying facts of the clever 2013 Jonathan Tolins one-man show “Buyer & Cellar” off the table upfront: In her first book, Barbra Streisand: My Passion for Design, Streisand tells of her interest in the Victorian furniture, barns and farm animals—especially chickens—on the Malibu estate she shares with her husband, James Brolin. There is an underground catacomb of finished space—a mini-mall of sorts—that provides for collections to be on display for all to see. A doll shop. An antiques store. A gift shoppe. (Yes, that’s shoppe with an extra “e.“)
One might imagine what goes on in this cellar? Who comes in and out? How is it all maintained? Is there really a frozen yogurt machine? For the imaginative answer to these and other fascinating questions you need look no further than the uproariously funny revival of “Buyer & Cellar” starring Scott Gryder now playing at The Broadway Pride Arts Center. The Pride Films and Plays production, directed by Donterrio Johnson, follows the fictional adventures of an unemployed actor named Alex More whose superior skills in retail land the job of his life—full-time proprietor, confidante and acting coach for the one and only customer who counts.
Gryder, whose diverse experience includes musical theater, cabaret and television, now vaults into the very challenging arena of solo performance in a marvelous show that could have been written expressly for him. Effortlessly gliding between characters along the way—Vincent in Disney’s HR department who recommends him for the job; Sharon, the all-business estate manager, who reminds him to remember the customer is always right; his boyfriend Brad, a Hollywood writer who is feeling a little threatened by the excitement—Gryder magically brings every facet of this exclusive world to life.
When Alex first meets the lady of the house it causes understandable anxiety, not to mention heart palpitations. After a few tests in retail economics, Alex gains his customer’s trust and the relationship evolves rapidly as Gryder masterfully channels an inner sensibility that draws us into his conversation and their comingled thoughts and feelings.
At the same time, Johnson has skillfully hewn the most dramatic and moving aspects of Alex’s collapsing relationship with Brad and taps Gryder’s broad range in ways to make you laugh and cry. We are left, as Alex is, to consider whether it is important to strive for comfort and security at all costs, or to trust our instincts, appreciate what we have within our reach and accept the people we love for who they are.
Evan Frank’s crisp interior set, with lighting and sound by Mike McShane, serves as Alex’s apartment, the main grounds of the Malibu estate, the cellar and what’s waiting upstairs without extraneous props, projections or anything else to distract us from Gryder’s versatile, and truly inspired, performance.
PRIDE FILMS AND PLAYS
BUYER & CELLAR
through May 19th
The Broadway Pride Arts Center
4139 North Broadway
For more reviews, visit: Theatre In Chicago