Alon Nashman in Wajdi Mouawad's Alphonse (Theaturtle)
Fringe is like a box of chocolates...but without the little guide that tells you what's what.
There's incredible variety in the 150 shows kicking off Wednesday, but most hard-core Fringers will agree there's no such thing as a guaranteed hit at the festival. So you'd have to be pretty foolish to try to predict "hot" shows before the Fringe has started.
Luckily, I'm very foolish. Here are ten shows I'm saying are probably good bets:
1. Little Red Riding Hood - MTC artistic director Steven Schipper is helming this production, starring a cast from Manitoba Theatre for Young People's Aboriginal Arts Program. It promises unusually high production values for young Fringers.
2. Big Shot - Edmonton exports some of the best Fringe theatre, and writer/performer Jon Lachlan Stewart is an Edmonton theatre fave.
3. Giant Invisible Robot - Originally seen here in 2007, Jayson McDonald's one-man show remains one of my all-time Fringe faves - inventive, surprising, remarkably funny, and touching.
4. Mary Rose - U of M film prof (and Guy Maddin collaborator) George Toles directs a ghost story by Peter Pan author James M. Barrie, with an all-star local cast.
5. The Same Joke Twice - Jem Rolls is a Fringe powerhouse for his performance poetry shows, so you have to give him credit for messing with success by trying something completely different. Here, he pens a two-person romantic comedy, directed by Jon Lachlan Stewart (see #2), and starring Caley Suliak of Spiral Dive fame.
6. Autobahn - If you find David Mamet too soft and cuddly, you'll love Neil LaBute, one of the most acerbic, nasty writers out there. But he does his thing well, and Theatre By the River do some of the best independent theatre in town.
7. Lucky 9 - TJ Dawe has been called a "Fringe god" for his sharp, witty writing, rapid-fire delivery, and ability to sell out a venue faster than any other performer on the circuit... but he hasn't been here to perform since 2008. His return will be a big deal, with a new solo show he says is his best to date.
8. Hedwig and the Angry Inch - A local production of the rock musical was a smash hit in 2003. Will this Toronto production repeat? Might do - the choice of The Pyramid as performing space is a good start.
9. Hersteria - Sharon Bajer (whose Burnin' Love premiered at PTE this season) teams up with Fringe fave Joseph Aragon for an original musical from the production company behind hits like Altar Boyz. Buy advance tickets if you plan to see it.
10. Alphonse - Wajdi Mouawad is one of the hottest playwrights in Canada right now (his play Scorched was stellar at the MTC Warehouse in 2008). And solo performer Alon Nashman delivered a fantastic turn in Kafka and Son at the 2007 Fringe.