Buyer and Cellar, San Diego
David Turner in "Buyer and Cellar"
© The Old Globe. Photo by Jim Cox

Buyer and Cellar, San Diego

Broadway vet David Turner assumes the role Michael Urie created and succeeds in creating a frenetic fan boy of La Streisand.

By Jonathan Tolins

Directed by Ron Lagomarsino

Starring David Turner

The Old Globe, San Diego

April 9 – May 10, 2015

What is it about stuff? We buy it, we love it, the novelty wears off and we buy more. We get a distinct, if fleeting, dopamine rush, but it doesn’t cure what ails us. This quest for material possessions is at the heart of The Old Globe’s “Buyer and Cellar,” a funny, and occasionally touching, dive into hero worship, disappointment and stuff.

The one-man comedy stars David Turner as Alex More, a gay, out-of-work actor cooling his heels in community theater. More hears about a day job in Malibu, but it’s only when he enters the gated compound, and completes the interview, that he learns he will be working for Barbra Streisand. The famous diva has built a small shopping mall in one of her houses to store her excess stuff — furniture, outfits from past performances, dolls, a frozen yogurt machine. More has been hired to staff the mall.

More gets to work. He dusts, folds clothing, listens to the silence. But then Barbra, his only real customer, comes in to buy a doll. More invents a price, she haggles. More hangs tough. Barbra leaves without her prize — which of course she already owns — but seems impressed by More’s moxie.

This fictional Streisand likes her coy games, and More is happy to oblige. Over time they appear to get closer. More’s boyfriend, Barry, is cynical about Barbra’s motives, but More is eager to please, even “collaborating” with Streisand on a potential film project.

Turner takes over the role from Michael Urie, who originated the role in New York and performed it last year in a national tour. One-man shows can be awkward, and being the successor is no piece of cake, but Turner pulls it off with frenetic style. Where Urie seems more ironic, Turner plays up the enthusiastic fan boy.

Turner does particularly well with the varied characters, giving each one the appropriate delineation. Even during the rapid-fire conversations, we (usually) know who’s talking. It’s a long show but Turner never loses his energy.

Turner’s take on Streisand is a definite highlight. He portrays her as funny, sad and perhaps a little odd. He makes the point with subtle mannerisms — pursed lips, a hand swivel, pulling a sweater tight, as if for protection. Turner’s Streisand is simultaneously aggressive and vulnerable. We’re not sure if we believe her, but we still feel her pain.

Tolins delivers a well-crafted, if somewhat weighty, script. Every line hits the mark, there just may be too many of them. Lagomarsino’s direction tries to overcome this hurdle, moving rapidly and making good use of the odd conglomeration of props, particularly a plastic chaise longue.

Still, there may be a little too much content, even for someone with Turner’s skills. A cameo with “James Brolin” is funny, but doesn’t do much for the story.

Despite the length, “Buyer and Cellar” is full of laughs and even unexpected depth. In the long run, it’s probably better for your brain chemistry than anything on Amazon.

Josh Baxt

San Diego ,
Josh Baxt has an MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and writes for a local nonprofit. His play, Like a War, was produced for the annual Fritz litz. Josh's short fiction has been published in the anthologies Sunshine Noir and Hunger and Thirst, as well as the journal City Works.