TR Robertson — Vista Broadway Theatre co-owners Douglas Davis and Randall Hickman have struck gold with
their latest production of Jonathan Tollins, “Buyer and Cellar”. Tollins fantasy comedy centers around Alex More telling the story of his trials and tribulations as a struggling actor who eventually lands a position working in the incredible basement complex under one of the houses situated on the Malibu estate of performer Barbra Streisand. As a performer, Streisand has won 2 Academy Awards, 2 Emmys, a Tony, 11 Golden Globe Awards, 8 Grammys and has had 37 Gold Albums and 21 Platinum Albums.
In real life, the story of the incredible basement complex is true as Streisand did transform this basement area into a series of streets full of country shops, such as a doll shop, an antique clothes shop, a gift shop, a sweet shop and more. The basement is under the barn building on her complex. Streisand’s idea was to create this unique venue to house and display the myriad of items she had no room for in her other houses rather than simply storing them in a dank basement.
- Pictures supplied by Randall Hickman
- Pictures of Barbra Streisand home shot by Streisand and in her book My Passion for Design
Tollins did meet Streisand on one occasion. His first in person meeting was at the performance of one of his plays, where he says she offered him part of her Kit Kat bar. He was inspired to write this fictional play after he acquired a copy of Streisand’s book, My Passion for Design. This book was written by Streisand and the majority of pictures in the book shot by Streisand, detailing the construction and completion of the series of homes at her Malibu estate. The basement area is said to have been inspired by the DuPont Winterthur Museum in Delaware. The play, “Buyer and Cellar”, premiered at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in New York City in 2013. It has a short run Off-Broadway at the Barrow Street Theatre. The play was a recipient of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Solo Show and Michael Urie won a Clarence Derwent Award for his performance Off-Broadway.
This delightful one act, one actor play is performed by the extremely talented Scott Arnold. Arnold portrays a young man, Alex More, who is a bit down on his luck in the acting world, having been most recently fired from a position at Disneyland, after threatening an obnoxious young boy with uncomfortable bodily harm. He is assisted in getting the unusual position at the Streisand basement, managing the basement shops. Acting skill will be required in this position as when Streisand occasionally visits the shops, he must treat her as a common customer, not as the diva she is. This will include making up stories about the items at the various stores and determining prices, as well as bargaining with Streisand about the price of her own items.
In the play, Arnold, as More, speaks about the struggles he has gone through; his relationships with his Jewish boyfriend, Barry; his encounters with Barbra’s surly assistant; paints a picture of the basement shops and their items; and gives us his version of his insight into Barbra and her own issues. Alex also relives various moments from the numerous movies and productions Streisand has taken part in. More strikes up a, somewhat, friendly relationship with Streisand, leading to Streisand reflecting on the cost of fame and fortune. More eventually is given a tour of the majestic Malibu home, personally lead by Streisand and is offered part of a Kit Kat bar.
Arnold deftly presents himself as one moment More, then Barry, or Barbra’s assistant or Barbra Streisand. His mannerisms and facial expressions bring these characters to life. Arnold is a veteran actor, having appeared in numerous local productions as The Welk, San Diego Musical Theatre and Moonlight, where he will appear again in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and in “Disney’s Newsies”.
This is a fun and very entertaining play I highly encourage you to take in. “Buyer and Cellar” will run until April 22nd. Not to be overlooked is the lesson you will take away from the play, first spoken through the voice of Barry, telling us to find the “Space you take up in the universe” and then by Alex as he tells us and himself, “It is time to start living again”, away from the fantasy world he has worked in.
Vista’s Broadway Theater is located at 340 East Broadway, next to Belching Beaver. Call 760-806-7905 or go to www.broadwayvista.com. Next up at Broadway Vista is the hilarious comedy “The Kitchen Witches” by Caroline Smith, beginning on May 3rd.