Regional Reviews: St. Louis
The Ice Fishing Play
Also see Richard's recent review of To Kill a Mockingbird
Oh yeah, you betcha!
But you gradually realize, in Kevin Kling's 1993 comedy, that things are inside-out. The inner life of Ron Huber (the fine Colin Nichols) is ultimately exposed for all to see; and the outer lifea well-equipped shack on a frozen lakebarely seems to exist at all as the play goes on to deliver one whopper after another, in the grand tradition of comic storytelling.
The acting is in that Minnesota matter-of-fact style, unfailingly polite and seemingly superficial, which somehow grants artistic license for the wackiest of tales, told here by a very good cast. These characters have seen it all, and understand that long cold winters may play tricks on a man's mind. Adam Grun directs, giving us a funny, successful playbut also a play in Mr. Nichol's brain, and even a third play in our own minds, using just the simplest of tools.
Ron (as played by Mr. Nichols) is visited by his wife, and his brother, and on and onand we witness his many goodhearted attempts to share a fuller life with Irene (the delightful Colleen Backer) and witness his hopeless grappling with life's occasional surprises, for which he is also manifestly unprepared. Mr. Nichols (there are actually two Mr. Nicholses on stage here, for a perfect twist-ending) nicely revives the silent clown tradition of Charlie Chaplain or Buster Keaton in his performance, with great back-up from Scott De Broux (as Ron's brother) and the rest, building to a perfectly crazy climax.
Back in 1971 my parents dragged us, unawares, to a movie theater to witness a horrible, grueling new cinematic nightmare, The Emigrants. Their intent, I'm sure, was to honor the sacrifice of my mother's Scandinavian forbearers, and perhaps to damage us for the rest of our lives in the bargain.
But basically The Emigrants is a very similar story of isolation and madness on the Plains. It's just way funnier here, and more inventive, with all due respect to Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullman, and their many ghastly sacrifices, all for my sake.
There's additional fine work here, in this play that debuted at the Humana Festival 24 years ago, by Moses Weathers, Michael Pierce and Shannon Lampkin. It's a perfect show for the second half of winter, as the sun begins its swing to the northand we catch our second wind to dig in for maybe six more weeks, renewed.
The Ice Fishing Play, through February 19, 2017, at the Union Avenue Christian Church. For more information visit www.westendplayers.org.
Cast of Characters