Jonathan Tolins

Buyer and Cellar

November 12-22
Ivy Tech Waldron Firebay

H-T Review

 

One-man show comes from unlikely source

By Matthew Waterman
November 15, 2015

 

Of all the books that a play could be inspired by, Barbra Streisand’s “My Passion for Design” seems like a strange choice.

Playwright Jonathan Tolins was reading Streisand’s 2010 book on the creation of her dream home in Malibu when one particular fact captured his attention: Among the features of Streisand’s mansion is an artificial shopping mall constructed in the basement of her barn.

Tolins wondered what it might be like if Streisand were to hire someone to work in her personal mall, and thus was “Buyer and Cellar” born.

“Buyer and Cellar” is a one-man show that Tolins wrote from the perspective of Streisand’s hypothetical employee. Cardinal Stage Company joins a long list of theaters that have produced the play since its successful 2013 premiere.

“Buyer and Cellar” shares the Rose Firebay in the Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center with “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” another one-man show. The two, both produced by Cardinal Stage, are playing in repertory.

The fictional narrator is Alex More, a struggling actor who recently lost a gig playing the Mayor of Toontown at Disneyland. The firing was due to a scandal in which Alex made a violent churro-related threat to an 8-year-old boy.

In truth, 99% of Alex’s duties under Streisand’s employ are to wait idly in the basement. No one actually shops at the mall. There is no cash register. It is entirely pretense.

Yes, 99% of the job is standing around, but the other 1% is made up of precious, rare moments in which Alex grows close to Streisand.

The star first descends to the basement calling herself Sadie, pretending to negotiate with Alex over an item in the antique shop. It’s a strange negotiation in light of the fact that Streisand already owns all the merchandise.

Once Streisand elects to terminate the “Sadie” charade, she begins to cultivate a friendship with Alex. The two swap stories from their love lives, and Streisand asks Alex to stay late one evening so he can man the frozen yogurt machine during a ritzy party.

In addition to hearing about Alex’s work life, we get the story of how working for Streisand affects Alex’s relationship with his boyfriend Barry. Barry is not a fan of Streisand, so it troubles him to see Alex get increasingly wrapped up in his position.

Alex is played by Remy Germinario, an actor, singer and comedian based in New York City. Randy White directed Germinario in this funny and engaging monologue.

Germinario’s delivery of the piece is tight, coordinated and easy to follow. Germinario is perfectly suited to the very likeable character of Alex.

White and Germinario have sculpted “Buyer and Cellar” so that each joke lands just how it should. Germinario’s style lends itself equally well to the standup-esque portions of the show and the dramatic portions.

Germinario is consistently energetic and entertaining in his solo reenactments of two-sided conversations with Barry, Streisand, James Brolin and others.

Tolins’ script is structured effectively, with a steady stream of comedy keeping us attentive for the full two hours of the monologue. There are plenty of references to Streisand’s career and related topics, but one needs only a passing familiarity with her persona to get the humor.

“Buyer and Cellar” is an inventive comedy with a wide appeal. Cardinal Stage offers one more weekend of this rare opportunity to see a top-notch actor in a brilliant solo performance.

If you go

WHO: Cardinal Stage Company

WHAT: “Buyer and Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins.

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center Rose Firebay, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday; 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; 8:30 p.m. Saturday.

TICKETS: $11.95-$26.95. Available online at cardinalstage.org or in person at 900 S. Walnut St., 812-336-9300.