'Guys on Ice' makes winter fishing funny

Categories: Theater
Guys on Ice.JPG
Photo courtesy Actors Theater of Minnesota
You say you're sick of winter? Maybe it's time to laugh in its face.

Over the past decade and a half, Guys on Ice has entertained audiences with its gentle spoofing of ice fishing culture and Packer-obsessed Wisconsinites. The current tour will be at Camp Bar's Cabaret Theater in St. Paul for the next two weeks before continuing on its merry way through the region (later stops include Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua in the northern heart of Cheddar-land).

The Actors Theater of Minnesota first produced the show last year and it has become a popular addition to their repertoire. "It's a lot like the movie Fargo," says managing director Bill Collins. "We like to laugh at ourselves, and ice fishing is such a part of life in the upper Midwest."

It's a pretty simple story: two best friends share the day ice fishing in their shanty outside of Sturgeon Bay in Door County. Both have their problems, but they can leave those aside for a day of chewing the fat, drinking beer, and waiting for the host of a popular outdoor show to arrive to do a segment on the shack. So it's like Beckett. OK,  Beckett with songs like "Ode to a Snowmobile Suit," but still...

What's here is mainly an excuse to deliver plenty of jokes and folksy songs, not surprising as the show premiered as part of Door County's American Folklore Theatre's fall season. It's endured--both with the home company and in productions across the country--because writers Fred Alley and James Kaplan understand the characters they created and infuse the story with just enough pain (and even death) to make it more than just a silly hour-and-a-half on the ice. (And, as a former resident of Sturgeon Bay, I can attest that these characters really do exist.)

The production also has another appeal. "There aren't a lot of shows that a wife can convince her husband to go and see. It's usually hard for her to say, 'Honey, let's go see a musical," Collins says.

Guys on Ice runs Thursday, February 24 through March 6.


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