The cast and crew of the Toronto Fringe show Release The Stars: The Ballad Of Randy And Evi Quaid got a big surprise Saturday night when the real Quaids showed up to see the final performance.
According to Daniel Krolik, who portrays Quaid - or rather a man portraying Quaid - someone with the caller I.D. "E. Quaid" phoned the Fringe box office after 6 pm looking for tickets to the 8 pm show.
The show, which got a 4N review in NOW, was sold out but incoming executive director Kelly Straughan arranged for the pair to get in. The Quaids brought their dog, who's mentioned in the show, and the animal stayed outside the theatre.
"Apparently [Randy Quaid] was whispering to [director] Jack Grinhaus during the show, about how ‘this really happened' or it was ‘just like that,'" says Krolik. "And Evi taped the whole thing. Which is what she does."
Actor Quaid (The Last Detail, Brokeback Mountain, the National Lampoon movies) and his wife, artist and former model Evi, sought refuge in Canada in 2010 after fleeing various legal troubles in the U.S. They both believe there's a conspiracy to kill Quaid after other friends in the entertainment industry, like Heath Ledger and David Carradine, died under mysterious circumstances.
The show, starring Krolik and Amanda Barker, centres on a fictional couple who pretend to be the Quaids to help them get over a personal loss. The show took place in the Six20Seven Gallery - appropriate, since Evi is an artist.
The play's depiction of the couple isn't disrespectful but comes across as irreverent, not sparing us details about their eccentric behaviour or paranoia.
According to Krolik, who talked with the couple afterwards at the Fringe Beer Tent, both Quaids were completely taken with the show. In fact, they would love to see it expanded.
"They've offered to send us transcripts and interviews," says Krolik. "They want to beef up the show. I thought they would beat us up and scream at us or go crazy. But they were very lovely."
Quaid also thinks they should add musical numbers to the show.
"Apparently he had just watched the movie version of The Music Man with Robert Preston," says Krolik, "so he wants to see this expanded to a musical, with tap-dancing policeman and singing reporters."
The actors only found out about the couple's appearance during their five minute call, when Grinhaus approached them separately.
"My first reaction was Jack was lying," says Krolik. "I grabbed his hand and said, ‘Randy Quaid is a huge man! He's gigantic!' I thought he might punch me."
But the actor says the Fringe was extremely supportive.
"Amanda and I were wrecks, but Kelly and Gideon [Arthurs, current executive director] had our backs," he says. "We didn't know if they were going to be disruptive. Kelly sat there with a walkie-talkie, ready to make a security call."
No call was needed.
While the CBC reported more than a year ago that the Quaids won their fight to stay in Canada, the two have maintained a low profile. Krolik says he and Barker didn't even know if they were still alive when they wrote the play.
The couple is vague about their current status, says Krolik, but Evi did go on about government conspiracies, money being siphoned and cheques not being cleared - all of which are part of the show.
At no time during their conversation did the couple mention copyright infringement or breaching of contracts.
"They were very interested in our process," says Krolik. "And they loved the Fringe too. Evi tipped $10 and got a Fringe button!"
The show performed very well at the Fringe, but this event will likely spark a remount.
"We need to do a great deal of rewriting, because we wrote it specifically for the Fringe," says Krolik. "We want to expand and use the new material and build on this momentum."