“Barbra’s basement is just like any other mall, except for the total lack of customers or employees.”
Kudos to a remarkable performance by Sebastian Gerstner in the one-man show, “Buyer & Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins and to Theatre Nova on the launch of this new professional theater in Ann Arbor’s Yellow Barn, nicely converted into a theater-space that very much has the feel of the original PerfNet space (i.e. the one in the “commune building” before it mysteriously burned down on its path to becoming the new YMCA).
Tolins piece is a fictional account of what might happen (though we are told numerous times at the shows onset that it has not happened!) if Barbra Streisand’s basement mini-mall (real) had a sales clerk (not real). But it ultimately leads to deeper thoughts about celebrityhood, worship of celebrities, people, and interpersonal connections…while never straying far from its one-liners and jokes.
Sebastian Gerstner is simply marvelous as Alex More, celebrity basement mall clerk extraordinaire…and his comic timing is superb without ever veering into hysterics. From one moment to the next, you marvel at his ability to convey several characters (sometimes at the same time!) with rapidly changing moods, locations, and motivations, let alone keeping 90-minutes of dialogue spewing forth. But its a performance to cherish and shouldn’t be missed — and he is funny…very very funny. He’s particularly good at conveying short conversations — you almost see Barbra standing there though his voice and mannerisms are nothing like hers…Barbra, you see, is an experience.
Dan Walker’s set looks terrific in its muted grays and off-whites, and there is good use of the space so that no matter where you sit, you feel you are having an intimate discussion with Mr. Gerstner in your living room. It helps a bit to know about Babs’s movies and career, though its by no means a necessity — but familiarity will bring much bigger laughs during particularly funny sequences about the “shameless manipulation in Prince of Tides” and the “romantic comedy nature of The Mirror has Two Faces”. I am still laughing this morning about jokes from last night.
The show runs one more weekend, and you shouldn’t miss it. It is a night you will long remember, and its a fitting start to a little new theatre company that said it thinks it can…and did.
Buyer & Cellar continues at Theatre Nova through March 29th, Ann Arbor’s Yellow Barn, theatrenova.org – 734-635-8450
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