Jonathan Tolins

Buyer and Cellar

November 12-22
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Meet Remy!

A recent graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Remy Germinario has had roles in The Feast of Stephen, directed by James Franco, the web series An Actor Unprepared, and the critically acclaimed Boys Who Tricked Me at The Musical Theatre Factory in NYC. Remy makes his Bloomington debut as Alex More in Jonathan Tolins’ smash hit comedy Buyer and Cellar.

As Cardinal’s new marketing coordinator, I caught up with Remy at rehearsals to find out more about the show, what it has to say about celebrity, and, of course, all things Barbra!

Rachel: Welcome! I’m just wondering, before signing on to perform in Cardinal’s production, did you know about Buyer and Cellar?

Remy: I did! Three years ago I saw the off-Broadway production, starring Michael Urie from Ugly Betty. The show was quirky and so much fun – it was written the way I talk! And I immediately thought, “I want to do this!” I am very grateful that I finally get to.

Rachel: What struck you about the show?

Remy: I was impressed with how much Michael Urie took on.

Rachel: He played something like six characters?

Remy: And now I do too! I play Alex, his boyfriend, an assistant, the housekeeper, James Brolin and, of course, Barbra Streisand! Michael did such a good job of differentiating the characters, but still keeping it simple.

Rachel: What is Buyer and Cellar about?

Remy: Well, it’s really a funny and lighthearted comedy. But it also has themes of identity, isolation and, of course, celebrity. What makes a celebrity? What is their identity beyond them being a celebrity? I think it’s intriguing, especially with Barbra Streisand, who’s almost not real because she’s such an elevated icon.

Rachel: Would the show work if it wasn’t about Barbra Streisand?

Remy: The playwright would have had to utilize someone equally as iconic and fantastical. Who would it be? Judy Garland, maybe. Liza Minnelli, too. You know, those great “divas.” But Barbra is still something special. When she came onto the scene in the 1960s she became a symbol of unconventional beauty for an entire era.

Rachel: What’s Barbra’s role in the play?

Remy: Well, she’s kind of the show’s antagonist. I was watching an interview with the playwright and he stated that, “I think it’s a positive representation of her.” I guess so… but if Barbra actually saw the play, I don’t know what she’d say! But, of course, it’s all fictional – the play even has a disclaimer saying just that in the beginning. So, it’s not about Barbra Streisand the actual person – as much as it’s about Jonathan Tolins’ version of Barbra and how he uses this iconic Barbra to talk about the divide between the famous and the rest of us. Of course, the show also looks at the divide between any two people and how hard it is to connect.

Rachel: It’s weird that Barbra has a shopping mall in her basement – kind of awesome, but it’s definitely excessive.

Remy: Oh yeah, but that’s where a lot of the comedy in the show comes from.

Rachel: What do you think that says about fame and excess wealth – having all that stuff we don’t need?

Remy: There’s a great line in the show and I don’t even want to say it, because I don’t want to give too much away, but basically it isn’t about how rich you are or how poor you are, or the objects in your life; it’s about who you are as a person and the people you connect to. It’s about human connection rather than possessions.

Rachel: The main character is still kind of a Barbra fan boy – and so is his boyfriend.

Remy: Alex isn’t the biggest fan in the beginning. There is a line saying, “Alright, before this job, I wasn’t the biggest Barbra-queen.” His boyfriend absolutely is though.

Rachel: Then Alex’s boyfriend starts to hate Barbra.

Remy: I think that goes back to the idea of celebrity. Barry, the boyfriend, loves the Barbra that he sees from afar – the celebrity. He can worship her and admire her as a famous actor and singer. She’s not real. But then when Alex becomes invested in the “real” Barbra, that makes her a present threat. She’s a threat because she’s stealing his boyfriend!

Rachel: Well, Alex’s relationship with Barbra is fun.

Remy: I agree. She tests him and they play – for example, they do some great improv together. They really get to know each other – or so it seems.

Rachel: What do you think drives Alex to take the job in her basement and then stay?

Remy: Alex is at this weird crossroads in his life. He’s in his late-20s and he’s an out-of-work actor in L.A. His career is going nowhere, so he takes this crazy job and he becomes attached to Barbra. Which is probably the biggest thing that’s ever happened to him. I think all actors want some sort of fame and I think this is the closest he’s gotten to it.

Rachel: Can you relate to Alex in any way?

Remy: Absolutely! I don’t know if I would take a job in a shopping mall in a famous person’s basement that was a two-hour drive away, but I totally relate to his uncertainty and instability. I’ve been very fortunate since I graduated college to work pretty consistently as an actor…

Rachel: Which not a lot of actors can say…

Remy: Exactly! But I’m still not working all the time, and there is always that little voice in my head that is telling me, “this is probably the biggest thing you’re gonna do” or “you’re never gonna make it to the level of your career that you want.” I can’t imagine my life without performing. I’m a true Gemini in the sense that I like the stability of being a homebody and staying in one place, but I also love that instability as well. It keeps me on my toes and it’s exciting – but it can definitely be a nightmare at times. So I totally relate to Alex.

Rachel: Were you a huge Barbra fan?

Remy: Like Alex, I wasn’t a big Barbra queen. I did a lot of research for the show, though – I watched a lot of Barbra movies and interview clips. I do have to somehow embody her – and I kind of followed Alex’s journey. I’ve definitely become a little obsessed with her.

Rachel: Is this the most challenging role you’ve ever taken on?

Remy: Yes, 100%! Not to brag, but even though I have a terrible memory when it comes to names and faces, I am weirdly good at memorizing lines. I am a walking tour guide in New York City, so I sort of have to do several one-man shows everyday for my job. The most difficult part for me are the many characters and switching back and forth between them.

Rachel: Which character is the hardest one to embody?

Remy: At first it was Barbra. But there’s this line in the show where Alex says, “I don’t do Barbra Streisand.” Still, while I’m not a Barbra impressionist, I think I’ve gotten her persona. I was watching The Way We Were the other day and she did something and I thought, “Oh I do that in the show!” Barry, the boyfriend, is probably the hardest to do because Alex and Barry are similar. As a gay man, I like to think that there are no stereotypes of gay men, but I think that Alex and Barry are on the spectrum of what people would see as a stereotype. I hate to say that, but it was definitely interesting to differentiate between the two.

Rachel: I’m excited to see you go from one character to another! When you heard you landed this role, did you think about the off-Broadway show—and was there anything you saw that you either wanted to do or change?

Remy: I was inspired by how Michael created the characters. It was interesting to see how he switched so easily. But I’m not copying him by any means. I’m trying to bring Remy to the character – always bring yourself to the role. I also think we’ve put more choreography into it than the production in New York. We are moving in the space a little more.

Rachel: Why should people come to this show?

Remy: It’s crazy, man. I think you definitely have to come if you’re a Barbra Streisand fan – you’ll definitely get a kick out of it. But mostly I think it’s really a unique theatre piece that people can relate to. It has something to say about fame and connections between people – and it’s just so much fun and its incredibly entertaining!