Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, February 25, 2020
Doug Atkins Doug Atkins

‘Buyer & Cellar’ dream role for Allen Township native

Saturday, February 2, 2019 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

When Doug Atkins first read the play “Buyer & Cellar,” there was no doubt in his mind he would one day star in the show.

The absurdist one-man play is about an out-of-work actor who takes a job curating the Malibu basement of superstar Barbra Streisand.

“I didn’t know how or when, but I knew I was going to do it,” the Allen Township native says.

Atkins, who now lives in Houston, Tex., plays the role for the third time and for the first time in his native state, in “Buyer & Cellar,” Jan. 31 - Feb. 24, Montgomery Theater, Souderton, Montgomery County.

Atkins says “all the memories came flooding back,” when he got back to the eastern Pennsylvania region.

“This will always be my theatrical home,” he says. “This is where I got my start in theater.”

Atkins got his start in Northampton Area School District at George Wolf Elementary School, Bath, where he played the Tin Man in a stage production of “The Wizard of Oz.”

He was inspired to try the stage after seeing Dick Van Dyke in the 1964 feature movie “Mary Poppins.”

“I said I want to do what he does,” Atkins recalls.

From there he studied theater at Lehigh Valley Charter Arts High School, graduating in 2008. He studied musical theater at West Chester University.

He performed in hit shows, including “Grease” at Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia, and “Young Frankenstein” at The Ritz Theatre Company, Haddon Township, Camden County, N.J.

“I was bartending and auditioning my tail off,” he says. “I was working steadily in Philadelphia.”

Then he read that Houston, Tex., was one of “five up and coming regional markets” for theater.

“At 24, I packed my bags and moved to Houston,” he says.

It was there, Atkins came across “Buyer & Cellar,” the one-person show by Jonathan Tolins, and was hooked.

He sent a video audition to eight theaters that were planning to do productions of the show, and got callbacks from two, and ultimately was cast.

In 2016, he debuted in the role at Stage West Theatre, Fort Worth, Tex.

“It was terrifying because I was only 25,” he says. “But I drilled it and it stuck. Then I had so much fun doing it.”

He reprised the role last year at Main Street Theater, Houston. Both productions were well-received.

“I’m so thankful for all the fantastic notices I got for the role,” Atkins says. “It really put me on the map.”

When he got an email from Tom Quinn, artistic director of Montgomery Theater, offering him the role for the third time, he jumped at the chance.

“I’m so excited to bring this home,” he says. “My grandparents, who live in the Lehigh Valley, can come and see it.” His grandparents are Michael and Brenda Ondush of Whitehall.

Atkins is one of a small tight-knit fraternity of actors who have played the role more than twice.

“I didn’t expect to be doing this for the third time at 29,” he says. “I got to talk to the playwright Jonathan Tolins. This show offers so many possibilities.”

In the show, Atkins plays Alex More, a struggling actor recently fired from Disneyland, Anaheim, Califl, who is hired to work in the private basement mall in Barbra Streisand’s house.

Tolins was inspired to write the comedic play after reading Barbra Streisand’s architectural book, which details the setup of her own private mall, complete with a dress shop, doll shop, and working yogurt machine, in the basement of her home.

The character in the play, Alex More, at first does not meet his employer, but eventually Streisand comes down and the two strike up a friendly relationship. The play chronicles fictional exchanges between More and his idol, a source of admiration and frustration for More.

“On the surface, it’s a comment on celebrity, but at the core it’s about how we treat others in the world,” Atkins says. “You may be able to create a mall in the basement, but you still have to deal with people.”

Atkins says the role is demanding. He plays six characters, including Streisand, who he creates entirely through mannerisms.

“It’s a big old romp through Malibu,” Atkins says. “The older I get, the more the show evolves.”

The show is not recommended for children under 17.

“Buyer & Cellar, 7:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Feb. 20-21; 8 p.m. Feb. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7, 14; 3 p.m. Feb. 10, 17, 24. Ticket information: Montgomery Theater, 124 N. Main St., Souderton;; 215-723-9984