This past weekend Mooney on Theatre sent its dedicated team of 22 writers and editors to cover all 148 shows* in this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival! With the sheer number of shows available at the festival, picking the ones you want to see can be a daunting task.
If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the number of shows and you’re looking for a place to start, we’ve asked our staff to tell us about their favourite shows they’ve seen at this year’s festival. We hope our staff picks can help you navigate the Fringe.
If you’ve seen something you think is amazing that you think others should go see please let us know by leaving a comment.
And don’t forget to check out our complete list of Fringe reviews.
Mooney on Theatre Staff Picks – 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival
Megan Mooney thinks you should check out Table 7 – A Plays In Cafes Creation. Not only did she really enjoy it while watching it; but it also keeps popping back into her head at random moments -a great sign. The piece is well performed, thought-provoking, and does an excellent job of tangibly demonstrating how bias can affect what we see in the events around us. As a bonus, you can sip drinks and snack on delicious food while watching it at the lovely venue.
Wayne Leung highly recommends Drama 101, A New Musical. The show features a cast of young artists aged 13 to 19 and centres on a high school drama club throwing a retirement party for their teacher. Writers Steven Gallagher and Kevin Wong perfectly capture those little moments that make up the experience of drama club and enable the talented young cast to shine. This show brims with authenticity and heart.
Mike Anderson has seen your future, gentle reader — and it involves you having an absolute blast at In Waking Life. Creative, off-the-wall, engaging and charismatic, the Synsk Sisters await your arrival. Bring a date, bring your best questions, and be prepared for one hell of a ride.
Samantha Wu suggests checking out Squeeze My Cans. Cathy Schenkelberg knows how to draw a crowd with a story and she’ll take you for one helluva ride down the Scientology rabbit hole. Learn all about the bizarre and insidious world of the Sea Organization and the great Xenu in the sky through a first hand intimate account. You will laugh and be shocked, but be aware – they don’t want you to know about this.
Jen Norman is in love with Fuckboys The Musical. Like, literally, she reviewed it opening night and brought her boyfriend with her 3 days later to see it again. Sharp and exacting songs that will get stuck in your head, with a biting yet heartfelt story. Great for a girl’s night, a date night, or a solo treat-yourself night. Unbelievable chemistry amongst the cast too. It’s a treat seeing a show where the cast are this comfortable and confident with the material.
Sam Mooney thinks you should see Clotheswap. Part scripted, part improv, all terrific. It feels so real, so natural. It really is like spending an evening with women friends – and some wine – and having your clothes critiqued. Great bonuses too. Your ticket acts as free admission to the Textile Museum of Canada for the rest of Fringe. You can bring clothes to swap after the show and any whatever is left is donated to Dress for Success Toronto and Sistering, two great organizations that can use the donations.
Ilana Lucas wants you to see The Big House. Tracey Erin Smith’s script about her father’s stint in prison and her volunteer work at a different prison years later is emotionally resonant, full of evocative themes and parallels, and even manages to sneak in a few surprises. Smith is an excellent performer and connects with her audience every step of the way through her journey. You’ll likely shed a tear…or several.
Catherine Gloria recommends that you see the hilarious sketch comedy spectacle Tita Jokes. Tita Jokes includes both culturally specific Filipino content and universal themes and allows space to educate with challenging controversial material in a hysterical way.
Rachel Fagan loves Night Feed for its bizarrely hilarious perspective on new parenthood. Puppeteer and associate director Ginette Mohr and puppeteer, director, and writer Sarah Joy Bennett have an exceptional and side-splittingly funny command over the household objects that come to life during a new mother’s nighttime breast feed. Corinne Murray truly conveys the absolute exhaustion of caring for an infant. Honest, engaging, and original. This production will strike a chord with all audience members, parents or not.
Jennifer McKinley recommends Night Cows because it weaves the subtext of multiple solitudes into a tapestry unique to Turtle Island. It has everything: passion, poetry, movement, mask, heart, soul, a social conscience, and a call to action.
Jennifer Enchin recommends you check out Emotional Labour, a two-person play that follows the painful (and funny) breakup of a modern Toronto couple. It’s got bold humour, cool, creative plot twists and impressive performances by both actors who are just “larger-than-life”. It’s a no-fail night out at the Fringe!
Isabella O’Brien was moved beyond measure by Didn’t Hurt, and Rodney DeCroos’s powerful sharing. It deals with heavy trauma with courage and self-compassion, and is a learnable moment for the lot of us.
*There are 152 shows in this year’s festival, however two shows opted out of being reviewed, one cancelled performances, and one other is a staged reading of the winner of the 24-Hour Playwriting Contest held later in the festival.
Photo credit: Wayne Leung