My Gay Toronto - Bellini's 8 1/2

Buyer and Cellar

I laughed all the way through Buyer and Cellar, a new one-man show written by Jonathan Tolins (Twilight of the Golds, Queer as Folk) and starring Christopher J Hanke, who also played the role in New York.

Tolins, who met Barbra Streisand once briefly, became fascinated with Streisand’s 2010 book My Passion for Design. She not only wrote it, she also took all the pictures inside, showcasing her expansive property. Though not autobiographical, the book nonetheless reveals much of Bab’s private life. One tasty tidbit is that she recreated a shopping mall in her basement in order to store her personal memorabilia. So Tolins decided to write a fictional story about Alex, an out-of-work gay actor who gets a job working in the basement mall. He dusts, takes inventory, and occasionally has to deal with the mall’s one and only customer, Barbra. She likes to pretend she’s shopping, so Alex has to play along as the shop clerk. The section where they banter over the price of a doll (which, by the way, she already owns!) is classic comedy.

It’s amazing how a one-man show can create such vivid portraits of unseen characters. As one might expect, the Barbra Streisand character is a bit nuts yet also lots of fun. We also get caught up in the drama of Alex, whose relationship with a screenwriter named Barry falls apart as a result of his involvement with the diva. Hanke’s performance is light and swift. The set is simple and tasteful. There is a smidge of Barbra’s music. And not much else. Just a terrific performance of a hilarious script. The show is well worth seeing.

Buyer and Cellar runs at the Panasonic Theatre until Nov. 30.