There is a moment late in Buyer and Cellar, playwright Jonathan Tolins’ spellbindingly hilarious send-up of all that was previously sacred about pop diva, actor, director, producer and dyed-in-the-wool gay icon Barbra Streisand, when one begins to wonder whether Tolins and the kinetically talented performer Michael Urie will be able to pull it off — “it” being finally tying off the previous 90 minutes of what seems little more than inspired stand-up comedy into something with the requisite arc and emotional staying power of a play.
That they manage to do so just under the wire is as much a tribute to the real affection for his target that percolates up from under the acerbic sting of Tolins’ pen as it is a measure of Urie’s uncanny economy and persuasiveness as a master caricaturist and storyteller.
Inspired by Streisand’s real-life coffee table tome about — among other things — the fantasy shopping mall she constructed to hold her memorabilia and collections in a basement on her Malibu estate, Buyer and Cellar is a fictional but vividly imagined what-if: What if a struggling L.A. gay actor found himself hired as the mall’s sole curator, confidant and private shopkeeper to the star?
Part wickedly funny deconstruction of the Streisand mystique, part clear-eyed examination of the seductive grotesquerie of celebrity mythmaking and the reinvented self, the evening ends as a redemptive and vastly enjoyable celebration of the inner Barbra lurking within us all.
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Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., dwntwn.; through Aug. 17. (213) 628-2772, CenterTheatreGroup.org.
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