The top 20 – numbers 11-15


by Matthew Everett | July 28, 2009 •

If you removed that gun from my head and I could see another 10 Fringe shows, what would they be and why?



Howard Lieberman/Jaded Optimist Productions

Death Camp Diaries

If there had been no Holocaust, would Israel exist today? If not, how, if at all, would the world be different today? In search of answers, this anti-religious, devoutly agnostic secular Jew visits some of Europe’s most notorious former death camps. What I bring home (on July 28th, a mere two days before the show opens) is whatever I find buried beneath the ashes of hate. This raw piece will be interactive, and demand a level of honesty from both performer and audience seldom seen on stage, even in a Fringe show.

Whenever Mom needs to be reminded who Howard Lieberman is, I just say, “He was the one who did a monologue while stroking a large rubber rat in a disturbingly sexual fashion in…

2006 – Sh*t Up Louder

“Oh, that guy.”

Yes, that guy.

Who also did the rubber rat free, autobiographical solo show…

2005 – Dancing Dirty with Lee and Mr. Bo

I’ve talked about Howard’s upcoming show before, in the Fringe-For-All preview coverage. I’m really interested to see how this one turns out. And that, my friends, is one way to creep up onto the Top 20 list.

His show page

His Fringe-For-All preview



Partizan Theater

Something Witchy

Los Angeles. August 9th, 1969. The crime of the century. Celebrity victims. And “the most dangerous man in the world.” Sixteen years later, a ‘family’ member wants to forget. But someone won’t let her. Closing night of the 2009 Minnesota Fringe Festival coincides with the 40th anniversary of the Tate-LaBianca murders, crimes that riveted the nation when the killers were found to be members of Charles Manson’s ‘family,’ acting at his behest. Something Witchy imagines a member of Manson’s family, only sixteen years old at the time of the murders, who leaves the group following the trial and melts back into middle class existence someplace in the midwest. With a husband and teenaged daughter, her anonymous domestic routine is interrupted suddenly sixteen years later, in 1986, when a mysterious man – private detective? Manson follower? cult fanatic? – tracks her down and threatens to expose her. This wrenching confrontation reignites her murderous past and leads to a shocking end.

Chris Carlson, another great Twin Cities-based actor, also one of the co-founders of the Thirst Theater experiment a few years back – and who played one of the roles in my first Thirst play, dropped me an e-mail about this one.

So did writer/director/producer James Vculek. When I remarked on what a great cast he had, he replied, “Yes, I couldn’t be luckier with that cast. And what a find Lindsey was. I had not seen her before but knew she got rave reviews for her Juliet at the Children’s Theater’s Romeo and Juliet.”

Partizan has a long, distinguished record, both on Fringe stages, and the indie film circuit. Here’s a sampling from their press release…

“From the company that produced the top five Fringe show in 2003 – Shtick, and Its Relation to the Unconscious, starring Ari Hoptman and Richard Ooms; the top five show at the 2005 Fringe, The Princeton Seventh, starring Ari Hoptman, Alex Cole, Catherine Johnson Justice and James Cada; and Angelina Jolie is a Zionist Whore! or, Plan 9 from Baghdad (2006), starring Alex Cole, Alayne Hopkins, Sam Landman, and Steve Lattery, which had a month-long run at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater;

[Blogger’s note – How can you not love a company that comes up with the title “Angelina Jolie is a Zionist Whore! or, Plan 9 from Baghdad”?]

as well as the feature films Two Harbors (2005), starring Catherine Johnson Justice and Alex Cole, which screened at 25 film festivals world-wide, winning 10 awards, including six Best Feature awards at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival, the Milwaukee International Film Festival, the Eugene International Film Festival and the Victoria (Australia) Film Festival among others; The Quietest Sound (2006), starring Catherine Johnson Justice, which screened at ten film festivals, earning Justice a Best Actress award at the Fargo Film Festival; and the upcoming The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald (2009), starring Guthrie Theater legends Richard Ooms and Jim Lichtscheidl.”

So, how much more convincing do you need? If the story intrigues you, as it does me, you already know you’re in good hands. That should about do it. Perhaps I’ll see you there.

Their website –

Their show page




Fearsome Critter

After banjo music leads to a severed finger, a desperate Jack seeks help in splitting from town and his wife guilt free. Will a past friend’s obsession with a dead woman thwart Jack’s shot at deliverance?

I talked a lot in my Fringe-For-All coverage for this one about my various reasons for being excited about seeing it. So check out that link for further details. I’ve seen a lot of previews, and trailers, and info on show pages and websites, and gotten a lot of press releases. Nothing bumps this one out of my 20 shows I really want to see this year.

A playwright acting as his own producer to get his new work out there in front of audiences has all the good Fringe kharma I can send their way. This guy’s no exception. Sorry I missed his first outing last Fringe. Not gonna make that mistake again. Here’s some samplers…

Their show page

Their video trailer Their Fringe-For-All preview…



Nautilus Music-Theater

Alice Unwrapped

Fifteen year-old Alice Bliss is trying to cope: Dad’s missing in action, Mom won’t come out of her bedroom, and her precocious little sister just wants a normal family. Somebody needs to take charge. Alice Unwrapped tells the story of 15-year-old Alice Bliss and her efforts to hold her family together while her reservist father is missing in action during the Iraq war. This piece explores what happens to those left at home while loved ones go off to fight. Alice is inappropriately left “in charge” of her mother and sister during her father’s absence. She responds by frantically taking over while defensively protecting herself with homemade armor. Her 9-year-old genius sister eventually persuades her to release her fears, let go of her perfectionism, and forgive herself. Through music and words, seasoned with both humor and passion, Alice Unwrapped explores issues of responsibility, fear of intimacy, protection, appropriate family boundaries, and the spirituality of compassion.

Many’s the time I’ve sung the praises of Nautilus Music-Theater in the past in this blog. Fringe time, there seemed to always be someone who was associated with Nautilus who was worth noting because of that connection. It spoke to the certainty that high quality musical performance would be involved in the production. Well, oddly enough, I checked my past lists and Nautilus itself has never been in the Top 20 before. Time to fix that glaring oversight.

And no better year to do it than one in which director and Nautilus guru Ben Krywosz is teaming up again with the wonderful singer-actress Jill Anna Ponasik. They did so before on the Nautilus Fringe show…

2004 – From The Diary of Virginia Woolf

and more recently in the Fringe with Jill Anna’s solo project…

2007 – Loss of Breath

This production, Alice Unwrapped, got a first run during the recent Spirit in the House festival, where it was (not surprisingly) well-received by audiences. No reason to expect less here in the Fringe remount. I love listening to Jill Anna sing. And if Ben’s in the director’s chair, that’s just added incentive to go.

Their new website –

and Jill Anna’s website –

Their show page



John Skelley

Jurassic Dork

One man. One movie. One show. One one-man parody of a movie show. Hold on to your butts. A one-man version of the epic film Jurassic Park created and performed by John Skelley. Action, Adventure, Dinosaurs, and Jeff Goldblum combine to create an unmissable Fringe Show.

I could have just grandfathered this one in under the umbrella of returning favorites, since John Skelley has taken on the Fringe slot of his friend Jonas Goslow – and lord knows I loved Jonas Goslow last year. But this has nothing to do with Jonas Goslow (or Nick Ryan)

It’s all John Skelley (and the dinosaurs). I went on at length before about why I’m happy John Skelley’s finally getting a showcase to show off what he can do, in that seemingly endless Fringe-For-All coverage – so check that link. It all still applies.

Since then, they’ve posted the video of his Fringe-For-All preview – a one-man comedy movie trailer. That’s really all the convincing most of you are gonna need, so just watch it – I’ve attached it below for your chortling convenience.

(I’ve been watching it multiple times because right now, in the middle of all this typing, I need a laugh.)

(I’m all over this dinosaur sh*t. Bring it on.)

His show page

His Fringe-For-All preview