Given the similarities between Maine and Minnesota, it’ s a wonder Kevin Kling’ s “The Ice Fishing Play” hasn’ t become a staple of theater companies in the Pine Tree State. After all, many a Mainer has retreated in the dead of winter to a customized shack on one of the state’ s frozen lakes only to emerge a few days later with few fish, but, like Kling’ s characters, with a deeper understanding of himself and the world.
Somesville-based Acadia Repertory Theatre made a wise decision in giving Kling’ s two-act play its Maine premiere. The cast, led by the company’ s founder Ken Stack, captured all the comic, touching and tragic moments in the script without becoming maudlin or saccharine at Tuesday’ s opening night performance.
“The Ice Fishing Play” was first performed in 1993 at the prestigious annual new play festival at the Actors Theater of Louisville, Ky. Kling’ s voice and stories should be familiar to listeners of National Public Radio, where he is a regular contributor. He makes a cameo appearance in Acadia’ s production through the radio in the ice fishing shack.
Stack, back onstage after taking a year off from performing and directing, led a well-rounded cast that captured the humor and dramatic nuances in the piece. As Ron Huber, a man reflecting on his life while ice fishing, Stack gave heft to the character but kept him firmly rooted in the humor and joy of life’ s ups and downs rather than on the tragedies.
Jeff Broitman as Ronnie’ s pal Junior and Toby Rust as his brother Duff were great foils for Stack’ s character.
The three actors adroitly portrayed the way men share experiences as if they were sharing their innermost feelings.
Broitman undoubtedly had the best line in the show when Junior complained about how the local resort has been taken over by artists. “They made us into metaphors,” he laments. “Once you’ re a metaphor, you can’ t do nothin’ without it meaning somethin’ .”
As Huber’ s wife, Irene, Julie Ann Neville was a sparkling delight. It was easy to see why Ronnie fell for her when they both were still in school. The couple’ s fight over whether she should take art classes will sound familiar to anyone who’ s been coupled longer than a few years.
The company also deserves kudos for adhering to the old adage, “The show must go on,” during Tuesday’ s opening night performance. Power at the theater went out about 20 minutes before the show was to start but the cast and crew made due with flashlights to illuminate the stage.
Director C. Andrew Mayer read the parts of the radio announcers and the cast seemed nonplussed by the whole experience. Power was restored during intermission to cheers and applause.
Regular and occasional patrons of Acadia owe a debt of gratitude to Mayer and his fine cast for bringing “The Ice Fishing Play” to Maine. While the accents and some of the expressions may be Minnesota, the emotions revealed are decidedly human and relevant to anyone who understands the need to retreat from life to better understand it.
IF YOU GO
When: 8:15 p.m., Aug. 1 – 9
2 p.m., Aug. 10
Where: Mount Desert Masonic Lodge Somesville
Cost: $10 – $22