2014 Next Stage Theatre Festival Review: Release the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid (God is in the Dairy)

The story of Randy and Evi Quaid makes its way to Toronto’s Next Stage Festival in Release the Stars 

release-the-stars-finalRelease the Stars: The Ballad of Randy and Evi Quaid is part of this year’s Next Stage Theatre Festival and is playing at Factory Theatre Studio. Its Toronto premiere was at the Toronto Fringe Festival in 2012 and I kicked myself for missing it. I can’t remember what drew me to it then — perhaps it was the star power of the titular characters, my curiosity about site specific shows or because I am a fan of Amanda Barker — but what I saw this past Wednesday night was not what I was expecting.

Release the Stars is the story of Randy and Evi Quaid and their ignominious escape from Hollywood. If you are unfamiliar with the Quaids or the details in the play, it doesn’t really matter. The show plays to the top of its audience’s intelligence; while giving background on the Quaids. Amanda Barker and Daniel Krolik also tell the story of siblings Wendy and Peter and their painful and inevitable separation. Barker and Krolik shatter the fourth wall to talk about their experience at the final performance of this show at the 2012 Toronto Fringe Festival when the Quaids were actually in attendance.

Release the Stars is a tightly written show. The performances are solid, funny and heart-wrenching and the actors are connected throughout. The pace is excellent and the direction is seamless. The stories are complex and the character relationships are real, raw and beautifully neurotic. Matt Campagna’s projection design is clean, smart and effective. The show is also very feminist and that earns my unequivocal seal of approval.

One beef I have is with self-reflexivity as a theatrical storytelling device. Generally speaking, as soon as an actor references a show or festival they are currently in or the theatre at which they’re performing, it gets my back up. There is some of this in Release the Stars and I long for the time when Toronto theatre finally grows out of this self-conscious adolescence. However, because of all its assets and because this device is not overused, Release the Stars  gets a pass.

Release the Stars is for people who live by their own set of rules, for people who have ever had to start over, for people bullied by the machine and for people who have ever felt the passion and pain of connection.


Photo of Daniel Krolik and Amanda Barker provided by God is in the Dairy