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    Babs-ylonia Delicious Excesses Lovingly Parodied in Buyer & Cellar


    Out actor Michael Urie is perhaps best known as flamboyantly gay Marc St. James in the TV dramedy Ugly Betty, but he’s unforgettable and perfectly cast as Alex More in the one man show Buyer & Cellar, which runs August 19–31 at San Francisco’s Curran Theatre. Alex is a struggling Los Angeles actor who finds himself working in Barbra Streisand’s basement, which in real life is like a “street of shops,” to use Streisand’s own words.

    Bay Times co-publisher and Streisand admirer Jennifer Viegas purchased some items from the “shops” when the acclaimed LGBT champion and singer/actress/author/songwriter/producer/director had a cleanout a few years back. Viegas reports that Streisand is somehow both decadent and frugal, having previously saved almost everything over the years, with many items well used and gifted by friends. The dresses, mostly Donna Karan designed, still had a whiff of Vol de Nuit perfume, for example, and her cookbooks were thumbed through—supposedly by Streisand herself—with favorite pages bent.


    Both Streisand fans and detractors have been charmed by Buyer & Cellar, which received rave reviews in New York. As David Rooney of the New York Times wrote, the play is “a seriously funny and remarkably sustained slice of absurdist whimsy on which both Barbra lovers and haters will be sold.”

    We were thrilled to interview Urie, who is also a talented director and producer, ahead of the play’s San Francisco run.

    SF Bay Times: We’ve heard that Streisand fans must see this show. Why?

    Michael Urie: The bigger the Streisand fan, the more you’ll catch. The show is chock full of Streisand-isms. Jon Tolins has brilliantly used his vast Babs knowledge all over the show, and I understand from mega fans that it’s simply delightful to keep eyes and ears open and find the clues. But, while those tidbits are gems for the fans, they are also just good story telling for the layman, so fear not, anti-fans.

    SF Bay Times: If someone isn’t a Streisand fan, why would they still enjoy it?

    Michael Urie: I’ve spoken to people after the show who’ve never even heard of BS—I know, I know, perish the thought—and they love it. The play insists that you use your imagination; I’m just a guy playing a bunch of characters (no wigs, no make-up—no nails!!!), and our set is just a simple neutral white room. You, the audience, are required, with my help, to conjure all of the other characters, and all of the wonderful rooms in Barbra’s basement mall. By the end of the show, fan or no fan, you’ve participated in the telling of this story. Like a great campfire or bedtime story, you’re involved in the show’s visualization.

    SF Bay Times: Has Streisand herself ever seen the show? If so, what happened? If not, what would you do if you knew she was in the audience, or if you saw her sitting in the front row staring up at you?

    Michael Urie: Ha! If she sat on the front row, there’d be no show. The audience would go crazy and I would poop myself. She has not yet been, and there are explicit instructions that I, and the audience, be in the dark about it if she should show up.

    SF Bay Times: We cannot even fathom what it’s like to carry a one-man show like this. What’s it like from your perspective? Do you ever get anxious before going on stage? How can you work without having feedback from other actors?

    Michael Urie: I get anxious. There are nights when I think, “Tonight’s the night I have my nervous breakdown,” but mostly it’s a joy to tell the story. The audiences have so much fun getting surprised by the tale that I still get giddy at spinning it for them. Being alone on stage is terrifying, but also thrilling, and having Jonathan Tolins’ brilliant words to speak give me confidence for days. I know they’re good and as long as the audience is listening (and I don’t mess it up), we’re all going to have a blast. Not having other actors to bounce off of is very challenging, and I deeply miss that relationship. There are no other actor-brains around, so nobody really truly “gets” me, even though the crew is wonderful. But, on the other hand…I get all the glory! And if comedy is all about timing, which it kind of is, I never have to rely on anyone else’s timing. If something doesn’t time out correctly, I’ve got no one to blame but myself.

    SF Bay Times: What do you hope audience-goers will take away from the show?

    Michael Urie: That I’m handsome. Just kidding! That the show is hilarious, and touching, but has very universal themes. I want the audience to leave thinking about materialism, the class system and isolation, but I always love it when people tell me their faces hurt from laughing.

    Please come to the show! I’ll give you lots of memories with which to light the corners of your mind.

    For tickets and additional information, please visit