Bizarre Barbra Boutiques Baffle, Befuddle And Bewitch In “Buyer And Cellar” At Stray Dog

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Will Bonfiglio as Alex More ponders his newly discovered life as Barbra Streisand’s shopkeeper in “Buyer And Cellar” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

In a tour de force for young local actor Will Bonfiglio, “Buyer And Cellar” at Stray Dog Theatre takes a coffee table book penned and photographed by Barbra Streisand and leads us on a fictional romp through her personal mall built in her basement. With the unusual premise written by playwright Jonathan Tolins, you just want this eccentric tale to be true because it is so out there and something you know Babs probably would do.

The premise is that Barbra has built this huge mall in her cellar with little shops such as a doll shop, a boutique that actually contains most of her costumes from her plays and movies and even a snack bar that keeps coming into the script referring to the whirring of a slushy machine and the popping of a popcorn maker. Into this world, Ms. Streisand’s assistant/housekeeper must provide a “caretaker” who keeps everything neat and tidy in all of the shops and just waits for the inevitable “shopping trips” that Barbra will make to the mall.

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A publicity photo shows Will Bonfiglio pondering the Streisand book that inspired “Buyer And Cellar” as presented by Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: Justin Been

A young actor named Alex More- he even announces himself as an actor at the beginning of the play- has applied for and won the job. Mr. Tolins’ script emphasizes that, although the basic fact of the mall is true, his story of this young actor is just his imagination running with the initial premise. Once ensconced in the job, Alex eventually meets The Barbra and she eventually opens up to him and even dickers on the price he must come up with in his head for a mechanical doll. If these exchanges he has with Streisand in the cellar mall were true, it would seriously question her sanity and be a delightful, eccentric side that one would probably not expect from a star of her magnitude. That’s why I say, please let it be true!

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Will Bonfiglio as Alex More ponders his fate in Barbra Streisand’s basement in Stray Dog Theatre’s “Buyer And Cellar.” Photo: John Lamb

This 100 minute one man show is truly a unique work of art as fashioned by Will Bonfiglio and director Gary F. Bell. We know Will from his wide range of roles on local stages and is admired as one of the best young actors we have today. But this performance takes him to another level. As young Alex, he announces early that he will not be doing a Barbra Streisand impersonation but he truly does come across clearly with her mannerisms and a certain voice rhythm that clearly speaks to Barbra. We even meet James Brolin at one point in the proceedings.

What he really has down perfectly is precise timing. His comic timing is flawless but he has studied this script and character so well that every pause, every movement, every nuance is money. There’s a boatload of laughs in this long one-act and Mr. Bonfiglio nails each and every one. In fact, with timing like this, he might consider a side gig at some of the comedy clubs in town.

Robert J. Lippert’s sparse but effective set suits the play well and is enhanced by the lighting design of Tyler Duenow. Director Gary Bell has brilliantly given the play the necessary ebb and flow and where to play for laughs and pathos, but Will Bonfiglio has really made “Buyer And Cellar” his own. It’s one of those performances that you will be talking about for years to come.

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Hands on hips, Will Bonfiglio as Alex More wonders what he got himself into in “Buyer And Cellar” at Stray Dog Theatre. Photo: John Lamb

And what better time than this start of the holiday season to enjoy an evening of laughs and the most bizarre story you’re ever likely to encounter? “Buyer And Cellar” plays at Stray Dog Theatre at the Tower Grove Abbey through December 17th- they’ve even added a special matinee on that closing day at 2:00 PM. Give them a call at 314-865-1995 for tickets or more information.

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