How do you kill? That is the central question of Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid, playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival this year as a site specific show at the SIX20SEVEN Gallery. It’s the question I walked away thinking about. In the show, Daniel Krolik and Amanda Barker use the real life story of Randy and Evi Quaid to illustrate human wonder and human folly in all its glory. They take you on the wild ride that starts with Evi’s childhood, continues to her meeting Randy, and ends with their refugee status in Canada and eventual disappearance from public life.
All this is witty, clever, and ridiculously fun. You’re encouraged to laugh at them and their particular view of the world. Amanda and Daniel seem fully aware of the ridiculousness of their subjects. More than that, they seem to revel in it. Often breaking the famous theatrical “fourth wall” in order to let you know: “It’s okay. We get how nuts this is.” It’s a wonderful acknowledgment of the weirdness of the story that allows you to like ‘Randy’ and ‘Evi’, and sympathize with them, without feeling like you’re crazy yourself. It also allows you to laugh at, and with them.
There are certainly a lot of laughs. Everything from pop culture references, to psuedo-serious discussions about the artistic merit of National Lampoon, to some great self-deprecating Canadiana mentions. And more than one reference to Evi’s vagina. Nothing is sacred!
But, and there’s always a ‘but’, this is the candy. This is the torrid and fun bait that lures you in to the real story. A story about love, loss, loneliness, and letting go. More specifically, the inability to let go especially when you know you should. Neither character, in their defining moments seems to be able to do that. Though Randy/Peter is closer to it.
This is not to say the show is perfect. There are lines that don’t ring quite true, and I found the show had a bit of a slow start. But once it gets going, boy does it go! So I can forgive the other stumbles.
Letting go. That is the real story in Release the Stars. You get snippets and teases of this throughout the show, but it really hits you at the end. And it does this simply, without pretense or apology. Amanda is raw. Daniel is pure. Their performances honest and evocative. So don’t be fooled by their funny playfulness. Ultimately, Release the Stars is about loving too much.
*Please note: Megan Mooney, editor in chief of Mooney on Theatre, was dramaturg on the show. This did not in any conscious way affect the review*
– Release The Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid plays at SIX20SEVEN Gallery, 627 Queen St. W. (Just east of Bathurst St.)
– Playing July 04 09:00 PM, July 05 07:00 PM, July 06 04:30 PM, July 08 08:00 PM, July 09 07:00 PM, July 10 09:00 PM, July 11 07:00 PM, July 12 09:00 PM, July 13 04:30 PM, July 14 08:00 PM.
– All individual Fringe tickets are $10 ($5 for FringeKids) at the door (cash only). Tickets are available online at www.fringetoronto.com, by phone at 416-966-1062, in person at The Randolph Centre for the Arts, 736 Bathurst Street (Advance tickets are $11 – $9+$2 service charge)
– Value packs are available if you plan to see at least 5 shows.
– photo of Amanda Barker and Daniel Krolik by Marco Timpano.