Nice Fish is a good catch

Richard Termine

There's an amazing 80- to 90-minute show lurking in the heart of Nice Fish, the world premiere collaboration between Duluth poet Louis Jenkins and innovative director and actor Mark Rylance. During the last hours of the ice-fishing season, two friends find themselves on an isolated patch. They talk about everything and nothing for long stretches. It's like Waiting for Godot for the snowsuit-wearing set. The main problem is that the show runs well over two hours, introduces plenty of plot that interferes instead of enlightening, and has no real clue about how or where to end. The good cheer that was built over the first act slowly grinds away into tedium and finally heavy sighs as the scene that seemed to be the finale bleeds into yet another. That shouldn't overshadow the moments that work — Jenkins's poetry often merges brilliantly with the action, and the six-actor company makes it sound perfectly natural to their characters. The cast is led by Jim Lichtscheidl and Rylance as the two fishermen, Erik and Ron. They set up a simple contrast — Erik is serious about fishing; Ron is just hanging out with his friend — but the characters reveal quite a bit about their inner workings, which proves to be a feast for the actors. They are supported by a number of eccentrics, including Bob Davis's DNR officer, Emily Swallow's probable goddess Flo, and Chris Carlson's likely god Wayne. Then again, it is the introduction of these characters that drives the show off the rails. Nice Fish is acted beautifully, and the whole production, from sets to sound to movement, is brilliantly staged. It just needs to find its core.

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