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Hearty laughs ahead in ‘Buyer & Cellar’ at Old Globe Theatre in San Diego

Ron Lagomarsino (left) directs David Turner in Jonathan Tolins’ ‘Buyer & Cellar,’ April 4-May 10, 2015 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
Ron Lagomarsino (left) directs David Turner in Jonathan Tolins’ ‘Buyer & Cellar,’ April 4-May 10, 2015 at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.
(Jim Cox)

• THEATER PREVIEW:

“Diva” has a lot of different meanings, all of which a young man who gets an opportunity to be close to a megastar experiences, and no one can anticipate the thrills and perils of such an unequal relationship. The comedy unfolds in Jonathan Tolins’ “Buyer & Cellar,” a hit Off Broadway, which continues The Old Globe Theatre’s 80th Anniversary festivities as part of the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration.

Ron Lagomarsino directs David Turner in this funny one-man show. Lagomarsino has helmed everything from Broadway and regional theatrical productions to more than 40 TV films and shows including “Ally McBeal,” “The Unit,” “Homefront,” “The Fosters,” “Pretty Little Liars” and “Picket Fences,” for which he garnered a Directors Guild of America Award. He had several reasons for wanting to direct “Buyer & Cellar.”

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“I’ve done a lot of comedy in my career, as well as drama, and this is such a funny and wonderful play,” Lagomarsino said. “It also aligned me with The Old Globe for the first time.”

Lagomarsino collaborated with Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein for casting. He wanted someone who was really funny, really smart and a great actor. Edelstein looked to one of the Globe’s associate producers, Eric Louie, and they agreed it would be a great role for David Turner. There were several candidates in the running, but after Lagomarsino met Turner, he knew Turner was the one for this role.

“I felt pretty darn lucky,” Turner said. “It’s actually the first time in my life I’ve been asked to do something just on faith, and I’m very grateful for that. Once I saw the play, I was dying to do it.”

Turner (Broadway’s “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever,” “Sunday in the Park with George”) plays Alex More, an out-of-work actor who lands a job that turns out to be far more than he expected. He’s employed by Barbra Streisand to work in her collection of memorabilia shops in the lower level of her Malibu home.

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“I play all six characters in the story,” Turner said. “It’s not much different than the work I’d do for any play, but instead of doing it once, I have to do it six times. I don’t change costumes, so I have to figure out where these people are from, what they are like, and tell the story in the clearest way possible.”

Lagomarsino added, “The challenge is he has to turn on a dime and carry on a dialogue between these different characters. It’s a real tour de force for an actor, and that’s part of the challenge in telling this story, but also part of the fun in creating the illusion.”

Turner likened the play to a radio drama. “Because what you’re really doing is calling on the audience from the very beginning to activate its imagination. I tell them right off the bat, ‘You will be needed to see things and hear things that are not here. I will do my best, but you are the missing piece of this fantasy and you need to do the work.’ That’s what makes the play so fun and exciting … people see what we ask them to see, and it’s more real than if you had a Barbra Streisand impersonator here.”

Despite the laughs, Turner said the play looks at why people are so fascinated by celebrities. “And not just from our point of view, but the pressure it puts on celebrities as well,” he said.

Lagomarsino said he didn’t want anything to be literal, so set designer Erik Flatmo created sort of an “L.A.-scape,” a cool vibe so the audience can see David describing the characters. “Although this is a work of fiction, we want the audience to feel it’s actually true,” he said.

• IF YOU GO: “Buyer & Cellar,” runs April 4-May 10, 2015 at The Old Globe Theatre’s Sheryl & Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park, San Diego. Tickets from $29 at (619) 234-5623. theoldglobe.org