With the opening of deer season this past week, the Wisconsin northwoods have been abuzz with avid outdoorsmen. Gun season, however, is just the hors d'oeuvres before the main course of ice fishing for Wisconsin winter game enthusiasts.
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater opened Fred Alley's Guys on Ice,"" an incredibly stereotypical yet accurate story of two Door County ice fisherman. In its 10th year of production, it's not hard to see why this hilarious tale has strong roots in the upper Midwest.
If you're unfamiliar with the banter and actions of northern Wisconsin, Minnesota or the U.P., you might want to stay home. But for people from these regions, the mannerisms of Marvin (Doug Mancheski), Lloyd (Steven M. Koehler) and Ernie the Moocher (Lee Becker) will probably sound like at least one relative.
A radio voiceover sets the scene of a cold Wisconsin day before the two main characters, Marvin and Lloyd, make their first appearance. A phone call between the two sets the stage for the hilarity that ensues in a day of ice fishing. It just so happens that on this day, Marvin has been selected to be on a cable fishing show.
Once out on the ice and in the quaint shanty, the guys are in their natural environment. Old road signs, a Hamm's cooler and Leinenkugel's cans litter the tiny shelter, making it seem old and broken down, but evoking images of a typical college basement.
It's amazing how many fishing puns can fit in under an hour and a half, and ""Guys on Ice"" pushes the limit. Songs such as ""Ode to a Snowmobile Suit,"" ""Fish is the Miracle Food"" and ""The One That Got Away"" (referring to Lloyd's wife) resonated throughout Mitchell Theatre, showcasing the cast's amazing vocal talent, which can be surprising given the thick accents and unintelligent characters.
Between songs, the conversations touch on typical Wisconsin fare: the Packers, beer and women, themes that could also be heard echoing throughout the audience during intermission.
The second act is significantly shorter than the first but just as entertaining. Part of what makes this so enjoyable is that the cast visibly has fun, sometimes having to pause to stay in character and stop laughing so hard.
""Guys on Ice"" is playing at UW's Mitchell Theatre through Dec. 14. Be sure to check out how Marvin and Lloyd's day on the ice resolves in this hilarious musical comedy.