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Theater Review: “Buyer and Cellar”

“Buyer and Cellar” runs through April 22, 2018, at the Broadway Theater, 340 East Broadway, Vista.
Photo credit:
The Broadway Theater

How many celebrities do you know who have an underground shopping mall in their basement, stocked with tchotchkes and other memorabilia of their public lives?

I’d probably get the same answer if I’d stopped after the first six words. But the celebrity at issue is Barbra Streisand, and she does indeed have such stuff in the basement of her Malibu mansion. You can see pictures of it in her 2010 coffee-table book “My Passion for Design.”

This basement includes an antique store, a clothing boutique, ye olde sweet shoppe and a functioning soda fountain.

Playwright Jonathan Tolins was inspired by that book to create the charming one-man show “Buyer and Cellar,” and you can see it through April 22 at Vista’s Broadway Theater. The show is, as you will hear over and over,  fictional, no rights having been asked or granted.

It’s worth the drive. Scott Arnold plays underemployed actor Alex More, who applies for the job blindly, out of sheer economic necessity: he’d been fired from Disneyland. “There’s a reason they call it Mouse-schwitz,” he says. But when gay Alex finds out his employer is Streisand, he’s thrilled and can’t wait to tell boyfriend Barry all about it.

Alex’s job? Well, it’s retail, sort of. He staffs the shops and serves the customer (the place is not open to the public) whenever she appears. Most of the time it’s deathly quiet down there, the constant whirr of the frozen yogurt and popcorn machines providing his only company.

But now and then la Streisand appears. One particularly amusing section has Alex making up a story about the history of a particular doll, followed by Streisand haggling about the (made-up) price of the doll she already owns.

Barry,  meanwhile, is an even bigger Streisand fan than Alex, but gets sniffy when Alex relates Streisand’s sad story about her loveless childhood and sleeping in the same bed with her mother (“colder than Aspen”).

“This incredibly privileged, powerful woman still acts like a Dickensian victim,” Barry complains.  “At what point does she say ‘for a meeskite I did all right?’”

She certainly did. And so does Arnold, telling this story with charm, excitement, boredom, and incredulousness, and always engagingly.

Bravo also to Broadway Theater’s multi-talented Randall Hickman, who not only directs but designed the spiffy set, lighting and sound, while partner Doug Davis works the sound and light boards.

Do yourself a favor and see this wonderful show.

The details

“Buyer and Cellar” runs through April 22, 2018, at the Broadway Theater, 340 East Broadway, Vista.

Wednesday through Friday at 7:30 pm; Saturday at 1 and 7:30 pm; Sunday at 1 pm

Tickets: (760) 806-7905