Jonathan Tolin’s hilarious and at times poignant comedy, “Buyer and Cellar,” has received rapturous reviews. It recently moved into the Barrow Street Theater in Greenwich Village, where it continues to play to sold-out crowds.
The idea for the show sprang from Barbra Streisand’s coffee table book, “My Passion for Design.” A self-aggrandizing tribute to her taste, it recounts how she created her Malibu estate, including a private mini-mall built to house her acquisitions in the basement of a barn. There are several stores there, including one for dolls, one for antique clothing and even a “gift shoppe.”
Until now, Tolins was best known for “Twilight of the Golds,” about a Jewish family wrestling with a “gay” problem. When genetic testing indicates a daughter is pregnant with a child likely to be gay, the family, including a gay son, debates the next step. It ran briefly on Broadway, had numerous productions around the world, and was turned into a Showtime movie.
Tolins spoke to The Arty Semite about how his new play came about, the time he met Barbra and how his own parents dealt with his coming out.
Curt Schleier: How did “My Passion for Design” become the basis of your play?
Jonathan Tolins: I started thinking, how would you like to be the guy who works down there? A friend suggested I wrote it as a one-man show. I’d never done that before and the idea just tickled me. I just thought it would be really funny and interesting and give me a chance to write about things I cared about: money and show business, how people with a lot of money spend their time, and about uneven relationships where both parties have a lot of power. The idea wouldn’t go away. I did a lot of reading and thinking about it until the situation became so real to me I could write about it as if it actually happened.