Odd jobs make good stories. That’s the basis for comical play “Buyer & Cellar,” which recently just hit the Houston scene. Alex More (Doug Atkins) is a struggling actor in Los Angeles who takes an odd job staffing the basement mall of superstar artist and diva Barbra Streisand. And now he has quite a story to tell.
In real life, Streisand actually does have a shopping mall in her basement where she displays decades worth unique and expensive stuff. She writes about it in her 2010 book, “My Passion for Design,” which is one of the only props in the play. Streisand never said that she paid someone to work in her personal shopping center, but playwright (sic) Jonathan Tolins explores what might happen if she did in “Buyer & Cellar.”
It’s a one-man show. Atkins keeps the play on-point throughout the performance in his role as Alex More. No one plays Streisand or Alex’s boyfriend Murray. However, as Alex tells the audience his story, he acts them out in such a real way I could picture them on stage. This is my first time seeing a performance with only one actor, but the stage came to life with his multiple personalities. That’s a testament to Atkin’s incredible acting skills and stamina in performing a 90-minute production by himself.
“Buyer & Cellar” is also notable for making an openly gay character the lead actor. He’s a strong, multidimensional and overwhelmingly human character who doesn’t even need any supporting actors. This play is another score for diversity in Houston theater, along with the Alley Theatre’s recent production of “The Cake.” With a lesbian couple and a gay man performing on Houston stages this year, I hope to see trans, bisexual and other LGBT characters respectfully portrayed soon.
Since much of Streisand’s illustrious career was before my time, so some of the references that other audience members laughed at flew over my head. This play along with the images and quotes from her book “My Passion for Design” also offer a glimpse into the very different lives of the insanely rich and wealthy who can buy everything they want but happiness.
“Buyer & Cellar” is a unique experience thanks to one very talented actor carrying the entire performance and for the diversity it brings to the Houston stage.
“Buyer & Cellar” is showing through August 11 at Main Street Theater in Rice Village. Student tickets are $10 in advance or at the door. University faculty and staff can receive 25 percent off when they use the promo code “TEACHER” and purchase tickets in advance.