Frigid Flights Of Fancy In “The Ice Fishing Play” At West End Players Guild


Michael Pierce and Shannon Lampkin visit Colin Nichols in “The Ice Fishing Play” at West End Players Guild. Photo: John Lamb

Garrison Keillor meets Jean-Paul Sartre in Kevin Kling’s unusual, almost mysterious, “The Ice Fishing Play” at West End Players Guild. Existentialism in the frigid Minnesota winter during the proverbial snowstorm of the century may not sound very entertaining but a funny script with a universal theme running through it makes for an enigmatic and moving play. A solid cast doesn’t hurt either.

Colin Nichols as Ron sets up shop in his ice fishing hut as the relentless wind whirls around outside and two good ol’ boys talk on the radio. The voices of Tim and Paul (Mark Abels and Michael Monsey) discuss a recent murder in the local community and then run through a litany of school closings due to the storm. It’s all we hear as Ron finally gets the beer stowed and his fishing line in the ice and snatches his first big catch- the license plate to his own car. His worst fears are realized as he goes to the door to discover his truck has been swallowed under the ice.


Scott De Broux, Moses Weathers and Colin Nichols chew the fat while drinking and fishing in the WEPG production of “The Ice Fishing Play.” Photo: John Lamb

This is followed by an astonishing series of events which starts with a visit from two missionaries not dressed at all for the bitter cold weather. Shannon Lampkin and Michael Pierce are a hoot as the would be proselytizers as her view of the Bible takes a decidedly different twist than his. After they leave, Ron’s brother Duff enters as a cantankerous mischief maker played to the hilt by Scott De Broux. In the meantime, Ron gets a visit (we assume in his thoughts) from his wife Irene as she scolds him for leaving her by herself all the time as he holes up in the shack on the ice. Colleen Backer gives a wonderful performance as Irene and she’s the only one who gets the Minnesota accent right (although most of the actors don’t really attempt it at all).

The local bait store owner, Junior, even pays a visit in the form of Moses Weathers. His enthusiastic, boundless character warms up the chilly ice fishing shack. And we even get a visit from Ron’s younger self, played by George Nichols. Why are all of these people encroaching on the solitude of an ice fisherman who just wants to be alone? Early on it all becomes clear and there’s only one question left at play’s end…

This charming play is directed by Adam Grun and he keeps the going light while catching all of the humor in the script. The Zachary Cary set design is a perfect representation of the lonely ice shack and Nathan Schroeder’s lights add just the right touch. Tracy Newcomb-Margrave has costumed the play with an eye for detail and the J.D. Wade sound design is highlighted by that constant, swirling wind.


Colleen Backer invades the solitude of Colin Nichols in the West End Players Guild production of “The Ice Fishing Play.” Photo: John Lamb

Playwright Kevin Kling is a native Minnesotan and has done extensive work as a reporter and storyteller on NPR’s “All Things Considered.” He has captured the homespun humor,  the local flavor and the obsession with ice fishing in this play. The existential side is a surprise but it’s a rare treat in a play that you think may take a whole different direction. WEPG’s production of “The Ice Fishing Play” runs through February 19th. For an unusual evening of theatre, give them a call at 314-667-5686 or track them down at


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