Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

The Ice Fishing Play
West End Players Guild
Review by Richard T. Green

Also see Richard's recent review of To Kill a Mockingbird

Colin Nichols (center) and Cast
Photo by John Lamb
Can a middle-aged man find happiness in an isolated fishing shelter in the wilds of northern Minnesota?

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 life—a well-equipped shack on a frozen lake—barely 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 play—but 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 on—and 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 north—and 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

Cast of Characters
Irene Hobbs: Colleen Backer
Duff Huber: Scott De Broux
Chairwoman Shumway: Shannon Lampkin
Ron Huber: Colin Nichols
Young Man: George Nichols
Chairman Francis: Michael Pierce
Junior Swansen: Moses Weathers
Tim: Mark Abels
Paul: Michael Monsey

Director: Adam Grun
Assistant Director/Stage Manager: Danny Austin
Lighting Design: Nathan Schroeder
Sound Design: J.D. Wade
Scenic Design: Zachary Cary
Master Carpenter: Jacob Winslow
Costumes: Tracey Newcomb-Margrave
Prop Master: Scott De Broux
Graphic Design: Marjorie Williamson
Light Board Technician: Rebecca Trocha
Sound Technician: Mary Beth Winslow
Box Office Manager: Danny Austin
House Manager: Carrie Phinney
Program: Nikolas Winslow, Mary Beth Winslow

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