Reviewed by George Basler

The one-man show Buyer & Cellar is an off-beat little gem of a play that provides a satirical, very funny and occasionally poignant commentary on fame, wealth, self-absorption and celebrity hero worship.

To make it work, the show needs a virtuoso performance by the actor who plays both the narrator and the protagonist. And that’s what Josh Wallenstein provides in a BLAST (Bold Local Artists of the Southern Tier) production that opened yesterday (April 7) and will run through Sunday (April 10) at the Cider Mill Stage in Endicott.

To put it mildly, Wallenstein is off-the-charts good. His cheekiness and consummate comic timing keep Buyer & Cellar moving breezily along through its roughly 100-minute running time.

The off-Broadway hit by Jonathan Tolins follows Alex More (Wallenstein), a struggling gay actor in Los Angeles who has just been fired from his job as a cartoon character at Disneyland for telling an eight-year-old bratty kid where to go in scatological language.

The play’s premise is outlandish, even though it has one foot in reality. The down-on-his-luck Alex lands a job playing a store clerk in the basement shopping street inside Barbra Streisand’s palatial Malibu mansion.

Yes, Streisand did indeed build a shopping street in her basement to house her costumes and possessions. She then featured it in her 2010 book, My Passion for Design, a coffee table tome filled with glorious photos (mostly taken by Streisand, of course) that shows off the dream house she has created.

But, no, she never hired anyone to work as a clerk at the mall (at least, as far as we know). Buyer & Cellar begins with Alex’s tongue-in-cheek disclaimer that the play is fiction because nothing like this could “possibly have happened with a person as famous, talented and litigious” as Streisand.

Buyer & Cellar imagines what could have happened in an alternative universe when Streisand visits the ersatz mall – complete with antique dolls, vintage costumes and a frozen yogurt machine- while Alex is on duty.

The two strike up a relationship, verging on friendship (at least in Alex’s mind), as they play the roles of picky customer and stubborn salesperson. Streisand opens the door slightly to some personal feelings, such as the residual ache from a painful childhood, and Alex basks in the glow of sharing confidences with a superstar.

Meanwhile, Barry, a floundering screenwriter and Alex’s sympathetic boyfriend, offers jaded commentary on the proceedings. How long can you put up with the way “this incredibly privileged, powerful woman still acts like a Dickensian victim?” he asks at one point.

The play requires Wallenstein to make rapid and seamless transitions among the three characters. He makes it look easy. One major success is his portrayal of Streisand — spot-on and recognizable without ever being campy and over the top.

Buyer & Cellar could easily be a bomb. After all, it’s basically a 15-minute sketch stretched into 90 minutes. What makes it engrossing is the wit and crispness of Tolin’s writing and BLAST’s first-rate staging.

Director Rob Egan, who is BLAST’s artistic director, skillfully moves Wallenstein around the set. And the actor, an up-and-coming standup comic, gives a performance of exceptional pacing and comic timing that is both larger than life and nuanced. He makes Alex a funny and likeable character. In fact, the character is so likeable that you want to go out with him after the show for a beer so he can keep regaling you about his adventures with Babs in the basement.

Maybe the show’s message is how hazardous it is to live your life vicariously through self-absorbed celebrities. Or maybe it’s how seemingly charmed people have the same problems and insecurities as mere mortals.

Or maybe there is no serious message at all. Maybe Tolins, the playwright, is just out to have fun and provide a good time for audience members. If that was his goal, the BLAST production succeeds admirably.

Don’t overthink Wallenstein’s performance. Just enjoy it.

IF YOU GO: Remaining performances of Buyer & Cellar will be 7:30 p.m. today and 2:30 p.m. Sunday (April 9 and 10) at the Cider Mill Stage, 2 Nanticoke Ave., Endicott. Tickets at $25 can be reserved by visiting or by calling 607-321-9630. Current CDC protocols concerning COVID will be followed.