Spilling Family Secrets (GoodSide Productions) is THE date-night show at the Toronto Fringe Festival for anyone who is currently in love, or anyone who would like to be in love but could use a couple pointers first. I myself am currently in a long distance relationship, so writing—emails and texts, mostly—figures heavily in my romance. I’ll be taking a leaf from Sam and Brownie Freedman’s box of love letters for sure, because this solo theater performance left me breathless and teary-eyed in the way all good love stories must.
The theater of the work – its staging, lighting, design, and acting – are absolutely minimal and simple: clear gestures and speech for characterization and action. It allows the gorgeous text of the love letters, written between 1927 and 1937, room to take you over ‑ which they will, if you have a single romantic bone in your body.
A consummate and obviously lifelong storyteller, actor/writer Susan Freedman takes what she calls her parents’ 64-year “completely unrealistic model” of a relationship and weaves into it the two succeeding generations’ tales of secret assignations and public breakups and private‑if discovered‑adoration. Honestly, I could have listened to Sam and Brownie stories for six hours, but this is a solo performance, so the performer has to fit in somewhere; the generational juxtapositions are interesting.
But I just can’t say enough about the text. These florid, sincere, passionate letters—mostly in the voice of Sam because Brownie kept all of her letters preserved—are remarkable in their language and adorable in their sentiment. While heavily edited, I loved that Freedman allowed us a full view into the romance and sweetness and even the sexuality; I particularly enjoyed the flirtatious winks like “Savvy?” and “N’est ce pas?” which let me in on the eros but let my own imagination do the heavy petting.
And then there’s the images – Pinterest-worthy antique prints projected to help the story along; then, the barest suggestion of a prop: an envelope of leaves collected from beneath the tree where they made their first declaration of love. With such a compelling story, very much would have been too much. Freedman and her director, Rondel Reynoldson, made great choices toward simplicity that truly served the show.
Don’t be fooled by the title: this is not a revelatory tell-all of skeletons and intrigue: it truly is something you want to see. I won’t spoil the family secret here because it is too charming to take from your experience, but again, this is not another solo performance spilling beans you’d rather not eat. In fact, this is a solo show you don’t want to miss – and since solo theater is my own career, I know of what I speak. Trust me. Take the love of your life, or your main squeeze, or just yourself you romantic fool, and go see this piece! (Be sure to pay attention to the lecture on birth control, you’ll need it.)
Spilling Family Secrets plays at the Taragon Solo Room (30 Bridgman Ave)
July 02 at 06:30 PM
July 04 at 04:45 PM
July 05 at 06:45 PM
July 06 at 02:45 PM
July 08 at 03:15 PM
July 09 at 04:45 PM
July 11 at 03:30 PM
July 12 at 08:00 PM
Tickets for all mainstage productions are $10 at the door, cash only. Advance tickets are $12, and can be purchased online, by phone (416-966-1062), or from the festival box office at the Fringe Club. (Rear of Honest Ed’s, 581 Bloor St. West). Money-saving value packs are also available if you are going to at least five shows; see website for details.
LATECOMERS ARE NEVER ADMITTED TO FRINGE SHOWS. To avoid disappointment, be sure to arrive a few minutes before curtain.
Image by provided by company