Worth buying into: Buyer and Cellar is just what theater-lovers need in live theater’s absence

Buyer and Cellar proves that making great theater is still possible, even in a pandemic.



Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

Buyer and Cellar, a story that’s usually only told onstage, is now available on screen through Riverside Theatre’s website, due to the unavailability of its theater space.

Amid the pandemic, Riverside took a clever approach to COVID-19 safety guidelines by filming a one-man show starring Riverside staple Patrick DuLaney.

Buyer and Cellar is a comedy following failed actor Alex More, and his new gig working for the legendary actress Barbra Streisand. Alex, his boyfriend, Streisand, and each minor character are all portrayed by DuLaney — differentiated by subtle changes to DuLaney’s pitch, inflection, facial expressions, and body language.

DuLaney carries a natural charm that’s integral to making a one-man show worth watching, especially in a virtual format. This comes as no surprise to those who are familiar with his 25 years of performing experience, including a Broadway debut in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

As the show went on, I nearly found myself forgetting that a single actor was telling the story. DuLaney brought individuality and believability to each and every character, which created engrossing interpersonal dynamics, despite all the roles being played by one person.

The show is primarily a comedy, but there were a handful of serious moments that allowed DuLaney’s skillful dramatic acting to shine as well. Buyer and Cellar is worth watching for the nuanced acting alone.

For Iowa City residents, there’s an added bonus to watching the performance. Several scenes were recorded in the Iowa City area, and I thoroughly enjoyed spotting locations I recognized. It wasn’t a distraction, just a fun addition for local viewers.

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Scenes that weren’t in public spaces were recorded in appropriate settings. Although there’s nothing like live theater, the performance’s ability to film a scene that takes place in a car within the physical vehicle added to the show’s sense of immersion.

There were a few other visual moments that were enhanced by filming, including a well-placed shot of the show’s script at the beginning and a beautifully decorated room that would’ve been hard to pull off on stage due to the number of picture frames that covered the walls.

Other perks of the virtual format are the consistent and clear audio, as well as the convenience of being able to stream the performance whenever the viewer pleases within the 24-hour period of purchasing a virtual ticket.

Riverside Theatre made the best of a tricky situation and brought back theater during a time when fresh entertainment is needed most. Buyer and Cellar is undoubtedly worth seeing.