A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW
The 5 & Dime Theatre Company has opened Buyer & Cellar, one of the funniest one-person one-act shows you will ever have the opportunity to see. The group was founded seven years ago and has consistently staged outstanding productions; this is their second year in their permanent home in Downtown Jacksonville. This outrageously humorous comedy written by Jonathan Tolins opened on October 5th and will remain on stage through October 21, 2018.
Mr. Tolins was inspired to write the play after encountering “My Passion for Design,” a lavish coffee table book by Barbra Streisand published in 2010. Ms. Streisand, now in her seventies, has captivated audiences throughout the world during her remarkable career as a singer, actress, and movie director. Tolins makes a point of admitting that his depiction of Barbra as presented in his play is complete fiction.
Alex, the principle character, is portrayed by local actor/director Bradley Akers in a tour de force performance. Alex is a hard-luck Los Angeles actor, who lost his job at Disneyland, and has been hired as the only employee of a make-believe mall in the cellar of Streisand’s home. And yes, Barbra does have a mini-mall with storefronts and shops in her mansion’s cellar, which she uses to display her costumes, dolls, and other collections (google “streisand mall images” for photos). Alex spends his day tidying up, dusting, and walking around the mall, while waiting for Streisand, the only customer who patronizes the shops.
But it’s not all waiting around for Bradley Akers in his role as Alex; it’s a one-man show with multiple characters, who include Barbra, her housekeeper, her husband James Brolin, and Alex’s boyfriend Barry.
One of the most humorous incidents concerns a doll named Fifi. While acting as a customer, Barbra successfully bargains with Alex to obtain a better price for the doll, which puzzles Alex, as all the items in the mall belong to her.
Projections on a screen on the back wall were used to show photos of Hollywood and TV greats in glorious or inglorious moments, which garnered much laughter.
Mr. Akers is marvelous as he tells his story, using varied voices, facial gestures, and spirited body movements to captivate his audience in this demanding production. While this is his first appearance as an actor in five years, he has appeared in many roles on our local stages in the past. As a teenager, he directed Dog Sees God at Players by the Sea, which was chosen as best play of the year. Since then he has been in demand as a director and has an impressive list of work, which includes comedies, dramas, and musicals at Jacksonville Beaches’ Players by the Sea, St. Augustine’s Limelight Theatre, and The 5 & Dime. Of note, while Bradley is starring in this show, his wife Sadie is also starring as Sally Bowles in Limelight’s production of Cabaret.
The set was elegant and striking, with white walls, flooring, and furniture accented with black patterns.
The play was expertly directed by Lee Hamby, one of the founders of The 5 & Dime, who also serves as the theatre’s Production Manager. With Hamby’s direction, superb acting by Akers, and a hilarious script, we had an evening of zany fun. As part of our research for this play, we briefly viewed You Tube selections of the Broadway production, and concluded that Bradley Akers’ performance was Broadway quality.
The production crew included: Lee Hamby (Director & Set Design); Abby Gomez (Production Manager & Stage Manager); Mike Yarick (Projection Design); Katie Cress (Lighting Design); Bob Chapman (Set Construction); Jennifer Peek and Frank Sanabria (Scenic Painting).