Peggy Sue Dunigan

Guys on Ice

By - Jan 2nd, 2007 02:52 pm
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By Peggy Sue Dunigan

This wishing hole, found in Marvin’s wooden ice shanty, brings magic once again as Guys on Ice replays in The Rep’s Stiemke Theater for a record sixth engagement. Originally produced by The Rep and American Folklore Theater from Door County in 1998 as part of Wisconsin’s Sesquicentennial Celebration, Marvin and Lloyd’s day on the ice in Northern Wisconsin continues to fish for laughter.

Imaginative lyrics by Fred Alley and memorable music by James Kaplan populate the delightful songs, including “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit,” which entertains while Marvin and Lloyd attempt to solve life’s problems attaching flatheads to hooks on a pole. Waiting for a prominent local TV host to capture their ice fishing wisdom on the tube, they wish for Leinenkugel beer and Green Bay Packer games. After Ernie the Moocher delivers shattering news, the two return to the comforts of ice fishing with a revised view of life, including the fact that heaven must be made of ice, with 50-pound perch, no limit.

Doug Mancheski as Marvin and Steven M. Koehler as Lloyd retain their on-stage camaraderie that feels fresh even after 500 performances. Mancheski’s comedic timing and facial expressions are priceless, he seems to embody Marvin completely, especially in “The Ice Fishing King: What Elvis was to rock & roll, I’m with the ice fishing pole.” Both voices compliment James Kaplans’s keyboard, visually surrounded with lighted fish, while Lee Becker’s “Ernie” makes quick ad-libs during the slightly too long “half time intermission.” Like so many zips in a snowmobile suit, this cast is hard to resist.

Capturing a bit of Wisconsin tradition and wit, Guys on Ice will resonate with all generations. The theater opening night was at capacity, and all ages were represented. This production, complete with charming ice shanty, reminisces Fred Alley’s performances of Lloyd before his untimely death in 2002. Mancheski and Koehler embrace Alley’s vision of upper Wisconsin characters and idiosyncrasies with warmth and affection. Even the lines about Vanna White and Brett Favre remain current. The Rep tours this production through several Wisconsin cities, Cedarburg, Hartford, Baraboo, Eau Claire, to name a few, and Red Wing, Minnesota, after the limited run at the Stiemke.

Guys on Ice is a well-spent evening of entertainment, as Lloyd and Marvin become friends worth revisiting a second or third time. Alley’s tribute to ice fishing is timeless fun: “Life is short…winter is long. We all need a wishing hole.” VS

Guys on Ice plays at the Stiemke Theater in the Patty and Jay Theater Complex until January 7, then tours from January 18-February 25. Ticket prices, performance times, and tour schedule: milwaukeerep.com.

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