Manitoba

Gothic ghosts to goofy comedy: 12 shows to watch for at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe

The CBC Review Crew will once again be out at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival, trying to find the best of the fest for you — but for now, here are a dozen shows you might want to think about adding to your list.

Keep an eye out for the return of sketch faves HUNKS, silly science and an odd take on an '80s action flick

Willi Carlisle performs in A Confederate Widow in Hell at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Dan Norman Photography)

Twelve days, 178 shows and 31 venues — there is, mathematically, no way to see everything at the 32nd edition of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival.

The CBC Review Crew will once again be out at the festival trying to find the best for you — but for now, here are a dozen shows you might want to think about adding to your list.

A Confederate Widow in Hell: Horror is hot at this year's festival. Willi Carlisle, who dazzled in last year's five-star hit There Ain't No More, co-created and stars in this creepy Southern gothic tale.

The After After Party: This comedy about two teen besties trying to find their way to the after after party — and piece together what happened at the party the night before — has won rave reviews in Vancouver, where it premiered in 2016.

The After After Party runs July 18 to 27 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Sarah Mabberley/After Party Theatre)

The Open House: One of two plays by the acclaimed American playwright Will Eno in this year's fest (the other is Wakey, Wakey, also worth putting on your list if you like your comedy with a bit of edge). Directed by George Toles and featuring a strong local cast headed by Ross McMillan, this one comes from two local companies behind a string of Fringe hits like The House of Yes.

The cast of Will Eno's The Open House at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (Sherab Rabzyor Yolmo)

Pack Animals: The set-up promises hilarity — a Woodpecker and a Beaver get lost in the woods. But this two-hander has been getting strong reviews at other festivals for being not just funny, but a pointed poke at the patriarchy.

Mix Tapes From My Mom: Local stage vet Cory Wojcik had a hit in 2017 with his play Joe Job, set in a coffee shop. This year, he's in a bar with a personal, music-filled show about family, loss and hope.

Winnipeg stage vet Cory Wojcik is the writer-performer of Mix Tapes From My Mom at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (Submitted by Imaginary Productions)

Hits Like a Girl: Devon More had one of the festival's most delightfully trippy (and smart) shows last year with her Flute Loops. Her latest sounds pretty trippy too, as More creates a live soundtrack to a story that "attempts to make sense of losing a sense."

Devon More is back at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe with her new show Hits Like a Girl. (Katie Powell/Devon More Music)

HUNKS V: Alas, no Hot Thespian Action this year — but luckily for sketch comedy fans, the always reliable HUNKS are back. Sketch fans should also keep an eye out for the return of Family Dinner, and HUNKS fans can see the troupe's Dana Smith in her stand-up show, Dana Smith: Lives at Wee Johnny's.

Didn't Hurt: This solo show about a rough upbringing from Rodney Decroo (and directed by TJ Dawe) has been hailed at other festivals this season for its unflinching, moving honesty.

Christine Lesiak and Ian Walker perform For Science! at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Festival. (Daniel Torres and Matt Schuurman)

For Science!: This goofy comedic exploration of science was a hit at last year's Edmonton Fringe Festival. It offers audiences a chance to get in on the action as a professor and her lab assistant guide volunteers through increasingly complicated challenges — all in the name of science (and silliness).

A Man Walks Into a Bar: Winnipeg's Theatre by the River, which has a track record for bringing great scripts to the festival, offers up this 2016 play by Canadian playwright Rachel Blair, which uses the oldest setup in the world to explore very modern issues of gender politics.

Chase Breyer: Part Time Substitute Teacher, Full Time Canadian Super Spy runs July 18 to 27 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Richard Leon Gauthier)

Chase Breyer: Part Time Substitute Teacher, Full Time Canadian Super Spy: This comedy, featuring one of the stars of The War of 1812 and coming from the Victoria company behind hits like Interstellar Elder and Snack Music, promises light fringe laughs.

Commando: The Radio Play: It may end up being hilarious or a one-note gag, but the idea of doing this 1985 action flick (dumb even by Arnold Schwarzenegger movie standards) as a live radio play certainly makes me giggle.

Commando: The Radio Play runs July 17 to 28 at the 2019 Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. (Submitted by Ditch Water Theatre)

About the Author

Joff Schmidt

CBC theatre reviewer

Joff Schmidt is a copy editor for CBC Manitoba. Since 2005, he's also been CBC Manitoba's theatre critic on radio and online. He majored in theatre at the U of M, and performed in many university and Fringe festival productions along the way (ranging from terrible to pretty good, according to the reviews). Find him on Twitter @JoffSchmidt.

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