Theater Review: ‘Buyer & Cellar’ tour de force at Civic
“Buyer & Cellar,” the one-man show through March 24, Theatre514, Civic Theatre of Allentown, features a highly-creative concept, an immensely funny script, a tour de force performance by Timothy Janovsky, and incredible stagecraft that ties the entire production together in a neat directorial package.
The off-Broadway hit was written by Jonathan Tolins, who was inspired to write his work of fiction after receiving a copy of the coffeetable book, “My Passion for Design,” which chronicles Barbra Streisand’s fetish for collecting things that wind up in a street of shops built under a barn at her Malibu, Calif., home.
The play opens with the character Alex More (Janovsky) reading from the cumbersome book and pointing out that all the photographs were taken by Streisand herself.
In the fictitious plot, More is an out-of-work actor who winds up working as a sort of curator in Streisand’s basement mall. It’s a lonely job until one day his mega-star employer pays him a visit, and enlightening conversations take place over a period of time that the audience is reminded never took place.
Billed as a comedy, it is every bit that, filled with one-liners and comic exchanges, but it is much more.
The play provides insightful glimpses into the realm of relationships, and portrays More’s own personal struggles to find out who he is and what his place is in the world. It is the perfect acting venue for Janovsky’s multiple talents as actor, dancer, choreographer and comedian.
Janovsky portrays not only More, but also Streisand, her husband Josh Brolin, her assistant Sharon, and More’s gay boyfriend Barry. It is intriguing to watch the actor carry on conversations with the various characters, with often only the subtlest of movements and minor vocal changes to indicate someone other than More. It is astounding that during the opening night performance seen March 15 for this review, Janovsky did this for nearly two hours without intermission, and never missed a line or broke his rhythm.
Janovsky avoids the temptation to do an impression of Barbra. Except for an occasional brushing of her invisible hair with her long fingernails, Streisand mostly appears as a slight drop of the chin and a minor change in facial expression. When her conversations become animated, Janovsky creates the singer by pulling his sweater across his chest.
As a dancer, Janovsky uses his entire body to tell his story. His arms flail for emphasis, and his hands pantomime non-existent props. It is the comedian, though, that carries the show. It is often not what Janovsky says, but how he says it, and what he does with his face and body when he says it.
Theatre514 is the perfect intimate venue for “Buyer & Cellar,” and the show’s Director William Ross Sanders employs ingenious lighting and sound cues, working with Sound Designer Randall Utsch, Technical Director-Scenic Designer Joshua Deruosi, Scenic Artist Jan Joyce and Costume-Lighting Designer Will Morris, that are an integral part of making the charade work.
“Buyer & Cellar,” 7:30 p.m. March 21, 22, 23 and 2 p.m. March 24, Theatre514, Allentown. Tickets: Civic Theater of Allentown box office, 19th Street Theatre, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown; civictheatre.com; 610-432-8943