“Directed by Jeff Award-winning actor Donterrio Johnson (Judas Iscariot in Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre’s Jesus Christ Superstar), Buyer & Cellar taps into our culture’s self-hating obsession with the one percent, creating a preposterous setup that still somehow rings plausibly true.
Set in a basement curio shop, it’s here we find Alex More, (Mr. Gryder), an underemployed L.A. actor who’s taken an unusual job. He’s been hired to manage the pre-fabricated mall in the nether regions of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu estate, running the frozen yogurt machine and dusting the dolls, among other mundane tasks. The mall’s only customer is Babs herself, in need of periodic “normalcy.” And the single employee in Ms. Streisand’s land of make-believe is Alex.
The work’s title muses on the multiple meanings of ‘buyer/buying’ and ‘cellar/selling.’ For in two senses, Alex and Barbra are engaging in transactions with one another. By creditably creating a pedestrian experience for the lonely rich woman who has everything, Alex is selling Barbra more than her own goods, even as he willfully purchases the fantasy of theirs as a sustainable friendship of equals. In the cellar, Barbra Streisand walks through the souvenirs of her storied career with Alex and indulges safe opportunity to be vulnerable. The dynamic is complex and intriguing.”
“Mr. Gelman’s 2017 Off-Broadway hit delivers a rather common romantic cautionary tale, arising from a sexually titillating setup. Polyamory (having intimate relationships with more than one partner) underpins a plot revolving around appetites, emotional maturity and the complexities of modern fidelity. The playwright, however, inverts the typical trajectory of a three-way, love-gone-wrong story, starting with what might normally be the end game.
As the curtain lifts, married lovers and expectant parents Alex (Jacob Barnes) and Josh (Rich Holton) are comfortable with their open relationship. Weekend trick Darius (Jesse James Montoya) is just another fling… until he isn’t. The three characters enjoy mutual pleasure and an unspoken understanding that the intimacy ends when the evening does. But the rapacious Josh decides he wants more.
It’s easy to view Josh, a successful stage actor and primary source of financial support for all three men, as an entitled child deferring adulthood. Yet I suspect that in the hands of a more nuanced performer, he’d be more complex than flopping hair and whiny pleading for unearned empathy. The character’s crisis of commitment and responsibility is 10 years ahead of schedule, yet Mr. Holton’s interpretation looks backward. I found myself hoping that Alex and Darius would fall in love and leave Josh behind. Mr. Holton’s rendering of the lead — chiseled glutes aside — is simply too grating to yield any level of devotion and forgiveness.”