Friday, October 13, 2017

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.

1 comment:

John Grinston said...

I loved this for the author's giddy-funny yet complex development of a whimsical notion, so that you leave feeling wonderfully entertained and yet moved and even disturbed by things that have been suggested. Ben Gerrard's performance shows masterful control and skill, as he makes the often lightning-quick transitions from one character to another. 'Barbra' often talks fast, and with short, sharp comments;'Alex'- often bewildered and challenged for a fitting response - has to keep up with her, and this process of adaptation the actor conveys in brilliant quick adjustments of his focus and movement. It is also a performance of outstanding vocal prowess: as 'Barbra', we hear emphases and intonations that are echoes of characters we know from Barbra's movies.Yet this is not - as 'Alex' has set out in his introduction to the tale - an attempt to "do" her; do any kind of impression. What Mr Gerrard achieves comes from an act of empathetic
imagination. It's 'Barbra' of course whose personality and public persona are of the greatest interest , but the actor is just as definite and bold when giving us 'James Brolin' or the housekeeper 'Sharon' or his boyfriend 'Barry' or 'Alex' himself, in whom the seeds of 'Barry's cynicism get washed away by the thoughts and emotions that unfold with the lengthening hours he spends in the extraordinary cellar. This play takes place in as close to a fantasyland as one might find in the elegant suburbs of a wealthy metropolis, and one is tempted to talk of slightness and whimsy. Yet the notions of true fulfilment and the complexities within a culture; ideas about belonging, betrayal, and obsessional need all at moments reveal themselves to us amid the bountiful laughter and delight.