(Column) Two productions at local regional theaters explore the lives of people living on opposite ends of the LGBT spectrum:
“Buyer & Cellar,” currently playing at Island City Stage in Wilton Manors, is a one-man tour de force that imagines what could happen when a young, out-of-work actor is hired to staff the arcade of shops located in the basement of Barbra Streisand’s Malibu complex and chronicled in her 2010 book, “My Passion for Design.”
Matthew Buffalo stars as the gregarious and chatty Alex More in Jonathan Tolins’ loving tribute to all things Barbra and few references are lost on the company’s mostly middle-aged, gay male audience.
With breakneck speed and steady direction from artistic director Andy Rogow, Buffalo transitions between Alex; his jealous boyfriend Barry; the acerbic house manager Sharon; the current “Mr. Streisand,” actor James Brolin; and, of course, the “lady of the house” herself.
Early on, Alex confesses he is not a “Barbra queen” but acknowledges that such adoration is a part of his gay DNA. This realization comes after he catches a glimpse of the dress the singer wore while performing her classic song, “People.”
Buffalo is immediately likable and empathetic as Alex and he successfully walks a fine line between comedy and camp. His Barbra is never outrageous like many a drag impersonation, but still a humorous caricature that emphasizes the star’s well-known idiosyncrasies.
Most importantly, Buffalo, a New World School of the Arts acting instructor, carries the cleverly written show with skill and charm. “Buyer & Cellar” is highly recommended—whether you’re a “Barbra Queen” or not.
Where “Buyer & Cellar” is sophisticated and subtle, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” playing at Slow Burn Theatre Co. at the Broward Center, is an in-your-face, crass look at the struggles of a transgender rocker who escaped from behind the Iron Curtain only to become oppressed (in a different way) in middle America.
The musical is based on John Cameron Mitchell’s cult film with a grunge rock score by Stephen Trask and tells the story of Hedwig, who underwent a botched sex reassignment surgery in order to marry a G.I. and land a green card. “The Angry Inch,” the band’s name, is also a reference to the unfortunate consequences of that procedure.
Carbonell Award-winner Dominique Scott (“Million Dollar Quartet,” Actors Playhouse) is tasked with the challenging role that earned Neil Patrick Harris a 2014 Tony and provided drag acting creds to Michael C. Hall, Darren Criss and Taye Diggs.
Scott gives a strong performance that is part defiant head-banger, part stand-up comedian (look out for lots of added references to South Florida and recent politics) and part tragic heroine. In another gender-bending twist, Mallory Newbro, also a Carbonell winner (“Beehive,” The Wick), portrays Hedwig’s cross-dressing husband, Yitzhak.
The show may not offer any deep insights into the current transgender experience and Trask’s rock score is certainly never going to be appreciated by all, but “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” does successfully convey the hopes and dreams of an often overlooked segment of the LGBT community.
Island City Stage presents “Buyer & Cellar” by Jonathan Tolins through Dec. 2 at the Wilton Theater Factory, 2304 N. Dixie Hwy. in Wilton Manors. Tickets are $35 at IslandCityStage.org. Slow Burn Theatre Co. presents “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” through Nov. 25 in the Abdo New River Room at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale and Nov. 29 – Dec. 2 at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center in Aventura. Tickets for both venues at BrowardCenter.org.