Posts Tagged ‘the ice fishing play’

The Ice Fishing Play
by Kevin Kling
Directed by Adam Grun
West End Players Guild
February 16, 2017

Scott De Broux, Colleen Backer, Colin Nichols Photo by John Lamb West End Players Guild

Scott De Broux, Colleen Backer, Colin Nichols
Photo by John Lamb
West End Players Guild

The Ice Fishing Play is a strange kind of play. It’s got a lot of character, and that’s its strength, but it also struggles with being a little too obvious in its premise. The production currently being staged by West End Players Guild is full of strong performances and an excellent sense of time and place. Still, it’s the story that’s a little thin.

This is an extremely atmospheric play, and that’s not just talking about the weather. The whole situation of a Minnesota ice fishing cabin is extremely well realized, with an extremely detailed set by Zachary Cary and excellent costumes by Tracey Newcomb-Margrave that augment the characterizations of the cast well. The radio show that constantly plays, featuring local personalities Tim (Mark Abels) and Paul (Michael Monsey) is hilariously appropriate, and even occasionally ominous as the story requires. The characters are well-drawn and well-played, as well, but what’s thin is the story concept itself. Following Ron Huber (Colin Nichols) as he waits out another “storm of the century” in his ice fishing hut and entertains a number of guests in the process, the underlying point of this story becomes obvious in about the first ten minutes of the play. From there on, despite the interesting stories and good amount of humor, the play becomes somewhat of an exercise in patience, as the story plays out and leads to its obvious, inevitable conclusion. Despite a small surprise toward the end of Act 2, this play is fairly obvious in where it’s leading, from almost the beginning.

While the obviousness of the story is its biggest weakness, its biggest strength is its characters, and particularly the performances. Nichols makes a fine sympathetic if sad protagonist as Ron, and Colleen Backer is particularly strong as the most prominent figure in his imaginary musings, his determined and devoted artist wife, Irene. There are also strong performances from  Soctt De Broux as Ron’s brother Duff, Michael Pierce and Shannon Lampkin as a pair of bickering evangelists, Moses Weathers as Ron’s friend and bait shop owner Junior, and George Nicholas as a somewhat mysterious Young Man who shows up near the end of the play. It’s a quirky, well-populated world represented here. I just wish the story was a little less predictable.

The Ice Fishing Play has a lot of humor, and some moments of emotion and despair as well. It’s something of an existential play, with a strong element of fantasy, although it’s obvious where everything is going and exactly what Ron is doing fairly early in the play. It’s worth seeing for the richly portrayed world its characters inhabit and for some particularly strong performances, and particularly the well-portrayed relationship between Nichols and Backer.  Although the story itself does have its weaknesses, this play’s biggest strength is its performances, and it’s quirky charm that makes it ultimately entertaining if not as thought-provoking as the playwright may wish.

West End Players Guild is presenting The Ice Fishing Play at Union Avenue Christian Church until February 19, 2017.

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