Regional Reviews: Wisconsin, SE
Guys on IceGo Fish Productions
Two buddies, Marvin and Lloyd (Doug Mancheski and Steve Koehler), kill the hours in a fishing shack out on the lake ice. They're waiting for a TV crew, headed by Cubby, who plans to interview Marvin. This could be Marvin's big break into TV.
During their long vigil, they trade stories about their lives: Lloyd is less than happily married; Marvin is hoping romance will strike with a woman he has been eyeing for some time. Marvin is also bored silly with his job in a factory, which he claims could be done by a fish. The stories are liberally punctuated by cans of Leinenkugel's beer (sponsor of the show, and a popular beer in Wisconsin).
The interior of the hut is ably suggested by three flats, a fair amount of junk, and a stove with a smoking chimney. A blue cyclorama and snow on the stage complete the picture.
Apart from Marvin's desire to get on TV, a key element of the story is Lloyd's professed preference for the Green Bay Packers over his wife. As he puts it, "Who wouldn't want to spend their anniversary with the Packers," who have received 30 years of his devotion, compared to seven for his wife.
From time to time the lads are interrupted by Ernie the moocher (played by Tim McNurlen), also out ice-fishing, who comes by to get vital supplies (bait and beer). Ernie, in red plaid pants, is a hoot, especially when he comes back after intermission to conduct a quiz and give away prizes (a can of "Leinie's," some beef jerky, a pickled egg, and other delicacies). The tedium of waiting for Cubby is leavened by songs, an occasional dance, and numerous corny jokes, the best kind. (Marvin and Lloyd boast good voices and sing in harmony.) The characters even drift into philosophy, pondering the question, "Do fish feel pain?"
At least one member of the audience (related to one of the cast) at the performance I attended had seen the show five times, and there was a general sense of levity during and after the show, perhaps abetted by liberal quantities of Leinie's distributed from the concession stand. (Seven dollars for a 16-ounce draft is a reasonable deal these days, at least by concession standards.)
The show seems to be a local phenomenon, with all its references to Wisconsin folkways and the Packers, but it has played successfully in other states.
The 971-seat Barrymore Theatre opened as a movie theater the day after the Crash of 1929 and serves as a general-purpose venue. This run of Guys on Ice opened to a good crowd in a relaxed mood, a perfect complement to a frigid holiday season.
Guys on Ice runs through December 31, 2022, at the Barrymore Theatre, 2090 Atwood Avenue, Madison WI. For tickets and information, visit barrymorelive.com, call 608-241-8864, or visit the box office on show nights 90 minutes before showtime.
Book, story, and lyrics by Fred Alley. Music and story by James Kaplan. Directed by Steve Koehler and Doug Mancheski (based on the original direction of Jeff Herbst). Produced by Go Fish Productions. Set design by Steve Koehler. Lighting design by John Frautschy.