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Buyer and Cellar


Ensemble Theatre presents BUYER AND CELLAR, by Jonathan Tolins, at the Ensemble Theatre, Macdougall St. Kirribilli. 6 October – 12 November.

BUYER AND CELLAR is a one man play by American Jonathan Tolins. It was inspired by the book published by Barbra Streisand: MY PASSION FOR DESIGN.

Alex More is an out-of-work-actor in Los Angeles who accepts a job in the basement of a famous artist’s home, where there has been a curation of the objects of career and the wide-ranging interests of this star. Alex will take the daily care of them. He discovers that his employer is none other than Barbra Streisand. He is an idolater and has to contend with the cynicism of his boyfriend, Barry, in carrying out his duties.

Ben Gerrard takes on this production with great elan and a set of skills that he employs to create with subtle physical and vocal adjustments a great range of characters to an enormously entertaining effect. Not only is Mr Gerrard able to cause great laughter he also with an incisive internalisation of personalised feeling able to conjure an emotional (not sentimental) radiated compassion in moments of deeply affecting pain as he tells Alex’s story. The impact of the range of Mr Gerrard’s ability is impressive, and as I heard in the foyer afterwards, ‘adorable’.

In a one man tour de force, by Mr Gerrard, the ninety minutes of this fictionalised encounter with a great star on a pink set – chaise lounge et al (Charles Davis) – lit with apt virtuosity by Alex Berlage, supported by a witty Sound Design (Marty Jamieson), sensitively Directed by Susanna Dowling, an evening of comedy is given to us that often teeters on the edge of ‘camp’ but through delicacies of ‘good taste’ and plain and simple honesty maintains a tenor of respect and engrossing interest. We come to care for Alex More, we come to care for Streisand and Barry and, indeed, all of the other cameos of the tale.

For a fun evening in the theatre, BUYER AND CELLAR is recommended. If you want to watch an actor with a sensibility of great modesty conjuring a performance of some magic, it is highly recommended.