‘Kooky” is a word often ascribed to people who are offbeat and unusual to an uncomfortable degree—people like playwright Clare Barron, whose effectively oddball drama You Got Older just opened at Left Edge Theatre.
Also new is 6th Street Playhouse’s Buyer & Cellar, a one-actor exploration of the eccentricities of Barbra Streisand, another routine recipient of the “kookiness” label. Written by Jonathan Tolins and directed with energetic simplicity by Sarah Muirhead, Buyer & Cellar takes a well-documented fact about Streisand—that she built a miniature shopping mall in her cellar to hold the costumes and kitsch acquired over the years—and launches a flight of fancy about an unemployed actor named Alex (Patrick Varner), who is hired as a make-believe storekeeper in Babs’ bizarre basement playground.
The joke-packed script contains one truly effective twist, but its insights into Streisand’s psyche mostly tend toward the obvious (her mother never told her she was pretty). And the story, while funny and affectionate, strains for purpose and relevance. The real reason to see Buyer & Cellar is Varner’s outstanding performance. It is Varner’s inventive characterizations and clear emotional arc that carry this kooky comedy along, with only occasional lapses of momentum.
Rating (out of 5): three-and-a-half stars
In the brilliantly crafted You Got Older, skillfully directed by Argo Thompson, 20-something lawyer Mae (an excellent Paige Picard) has lost her job, her apartment, her boyfriend and her self-confidence, at the same moment that her father (Joe Winkler, absolutely marvelous) is diagnosed with a mysterious, possibly fatal throat cancer.
She’s also got a terrible-sounding rash.
Barron’s kookiness manifests itself mainly through the candid dialogue between Mae and Mac (Jared Wright), a rash-loving stranger she meets in a bar, and her loving but distracted siblings (Sandra Ish, Devin McConnell, Victoria Saitz). Then there’s the sexy, dangerous cowboy (Chris Ginesi), who Mae conjures up in a series of increasingly disturbing sex fantasies. Weirdness aside, there is a palpable honesty and realness to the story that sneaks up on you.
Rating (out of 5): four-and-a-half stars
‘You Got Older’ runs Friday–Sunday through Feb. 19 at Left Edge Theatre. 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa. $15–$27. Times vary. 707.546.3600. ‘Buyer & Cellar’ runs Thursday–Sunday through Feb. 19 at 6th Street Playhouse. 56 W. Sixth St., Santa Rosa. $10–$26. Times vary. 707.523.4185.
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