In Spend Your Kids’ Inheritance (playing at the Toronto Fringe Festival), a group of spry seniors, fed up with being warehoused in a pleasant-but-soulless old folks’ home, come up with a plan to escape. But first, they need to overcome obstacles: imperious staff, domineering adult children, and — worst of all — bean loaf Thursdays.
This could very well be the next Summerland, and I’ll tell you why.
First, writer and lyricist Catherine Frid has blessed this show with a book which not only stands up as an entertainment, but clearly shows that she has engaged with the sorts of seniors she’s writing about. The material is tender and reflective without becoming cloying, or giving into easy answers. It’s easy to see the human beings behind this work, and that elevates it from the beginning.
Second, director Andrew Lamb takes that book and absolutely runs with it. The energy and joy which flows off that stage must be experienced to be believed. With this kind of aura in the room, we can forgive all sins — and with the level of polish on this production, we rarely have to.
Third, the actors are uncommonly strong. The old folks are the stars, of course: Jillian Rees-Brown and Denise Norman discovering love in an unlikely-but-inevitable place, and Rick Jones as a codger who goes deeper than his hearing suggests. The supporting players (Brianne Tucker as a self-absorbed daughter, Tara Baxendale as the bureaucrat running the Alpine Home, Bil Antoniou as a variety of plot devices, and human-shaped good luck charm Kyle Orzech as a teenaged interloper) show well, too, and the big group sequences are among the show’s best.
And fourth, they’ve booked Charlotte Moore for the plum catalyst role. It’s a treat to see an actor as talented as Moore get to chew on a part this rich with character, and it’s a genuine surprise to get acting of this calibre out of a $13 ticket. Best bargain in town, bar none.
But most importantly, all of it gels, almost inexplicably. This is not a perfect show: there are plot holes and fridge logic and a few musical numbers which don’t quite fit — and none of that matters. The good bits are so good (and good in such uncommon ways!) that we just keep bouncing along, assured that if one joke doesn’t land, the next four will make up for it. In this, the near-sellout audience at opening night was not disappointed.
Longtime fringegoers sometimes like to tell stories of what they saw when it was still a baby show. Did you see Summerland? My Mother’s Lesbian Jewish Wiccan Wedding? Kim’s Convenience? Da Kink In My Hair? The Drowsy Chaperone? Mump And Smoot?
Spend Your Kids’ Inheritance almost feels destined to join this pantheon. It’s unique, it’s good, and it must be selling like hotcakes: if it appeals to you at all, get in there while you can.
- Spend Your Kids’ Inheritance plays at the Helen Gardiner Phelan Playhouse. (79 St. George St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warning: fog or haze effects.
- This venue is wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Saturday July 6th, 1:15 pm
- Monday July 8th, 10:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 8:45 pm
- Friday July 12th, 5:15 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 5:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 2:15 pm
Photograph of Brianne Tucker and Denise Norman by Pierre Leclipteux.