A marriage and a dinner party: The Gooseberry at Nextfest

The mainstage theatre lineup at Nextfest 2018 includes four productions of strikingly diverse and unusual inspirations and theatrical styles. 12thnight.ca talked to the playwrights. Meet Juniper Wisniewski, creator of The Gooseberry, a black comedy in which a dinner party is the battleground for a marriage.

The Gooseberry. Photo by Mat Simpson.


By Liz Nicholls, 12thnight.ca

A dinner party that goes south: that’s the time-honoured recipe for marital tension that is at the heart of The Gooseberry, the black comedy by Juniper Wisniewski that opens on the Nextfest mainstage Saturday.

“The idea,” says the genial playwright, “is to bring people to their extremity….. Relationship are funny and difficult and beautiful.” 

The production directed by Skye Hyndman is the work of Moplip Theatre, an off-centre indie company that brought Nextfest and Fringe audiences such unconventional offerings as Pinniped And Other Poems (in which a man turned into a walrus) and Prue & Ambrose (in which a girl throws the contents of her apartment out the window until she’s left with a single egg).

Wisniewski, a U of A linguistics major, has written a couple of Fringe shows, The Milky Way Express and Winky and Rex. His muse tends to the comic; his theatre cohorts say his buzzsaw comic energy reminds them of a Christopher Durang. The host couple in this latest Wisniewski is two wives, “one more upbeat and one more morose” as the playwright says. “They are losing interest and propriety in their relationship….”

The dynamic of the six-actor play directed by Moplip’s Hyndman, is “the married couple picking at each other, making each other miserable,” as Wisniewski puts it. And, as guests arrive — an English professor “and his awful mother” and an English grad student and guest from Neptune, everything conspires against “the wife who want to throw a perfect dinner party.”

“It’s not a Moplip play,” says Wisniewski. “But it has a Moplip spirit…. I’m a guest in Moplip-Land.”

The Gooseberry runs Friday, Sunday, June 9 and 10 at the Roxy on Gateway (8529 Gateway Blvd.). Check nextfest.ca for times and tickets.

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