The reviews are in for ‘Nice Fish’ at the Guthrie

Guthrie Theater presents the world premiere of a play about ice fishing built around the poetry of Duluthian Louis Jenkins.

The brainchild of Jenkins and two time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance, “Nice Fish” draws on wry Minnesota humor as well as Norse mythology.

Critics find the poetic stage piece both strong and inventive, but more than one complained it went on too long.

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Jim Lichtscheidl as Erik and Mark Rylance as Ron in “Nice Fish,” on stage at the Guthrie Theater through May 18. Photo by Richard Termine

From Sophie Kerman at AisleSayTwinCities.com:


Nice Fish is nothing less than the Waiting for Godot of ice fishing, punctuating life’s long (and sometimes apparently senseless) wait with moments of reflection, physical comedy, absurdity, profound sadness, and startling delight.

From Graydon Royce at the Star Tribune:

We feel part of something that is being created, in fits and starts, out of chaos. The play’s wildness courts disaster at the same time it amazes with its bravery. How infrequently we get to see such raw, present and alive work at the Guthrie.

“Nice Fish” howls like a snowstorm — in April. We can either shut ourselves away from it, or run outside for one last winter romp.

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Mark Rylance as Ron and Jim Lichtscheidl as Erik in the Guthrie Theater’s production of Nice Fish. Photo by Richard Termine

From Dominic P. Papatola at the Pioneer Press:

Written by English actor-director Mark Rylance and Duluth prose-poet Louis Jenkins, “Nice Fish” has ample whimsy and magic but calls to mind a charming dinner guest who lingers one glass of wine longer than you’d like…Ultimately, there’s not enough narrative or character exploration to make “Nice Fish” a wholly satisfying experience, and — despite a fanciful final tableau — the show doesn’t justify its two-and-a-half-hour running time.

From Ellen Burkhardt at Minnesota Monthly:

If using poems to form the structure of a play seems wonky, it’s because it is. “My first thought was, ‘This isn’t going to work,’” says Jenkins in his contributor’s note in the show’s program. But for whatever reason–a.k.a. Rylance’s vast acting experience and talent, Jenkins’s relatable yet insightful prose, and a superb cast–it does. Just as lyrics taken out of the context of their song may read as awkward and incomplete, so too would much of the poetry used as speeches in Nice Fish. Yet delivered as a whole and given life through the cadence, nuance, and passion of the actors presenting them, each piece works together to evoke an unforgettable and altogether unique theater experience.

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Jim Lichtscheidl as Erik and Mark Rylance as Ron in “Nice Fish,” on stage at the Guthrie Theater through May 18. Photo by Richard Termine

From Janet Preus at HowWasTheShow.com:

…After a long, cold winter, the Guthrie’s landed a nice, big hit. A collaboration between writer, director and actor Mark Rylance and Duluth poet Louis Jenkins, Nice Fish delighted its opening night audience, but this regionally-flavored little jewel is likely to have a long life beyond Minnesota’s borders. Fanciful, imaginative and thoughtful, it’s also just plain entertaining.

“Nice Fish” runs through May 18 at the Guthrie Theater. Have you seen the show? If so, what’s your review?

  • Suzanne atood

    Absolutely side splitting humor. Although I may have been one of the few in the audience actually getting the jokes. Do agree it’s a wee bit long. Most laughter I have experienced in MN theatre in a long time.

  • Long time Guthrie fan

    Disappointing. This was the first time ever we left a Guthrie production at intermission, and we have been season ticket holders for many years. You could expect to see this production at a supper club or community theater, not the Guthrie.

  • Jody

    Love it! I found it to be Nice Fish entertaining and whimsical. As a Minnesota we talk like they did in the play. Snipes of our thoughts and feelings, Never quite revealing all. If you’ve ever gone fishing then you know or hung out at the local bar where the fisherman hang out you’ll see your neighbor at this play talking of the one that got away. I laughed so hard sometimes when I came out my stomach felt like I had just done 100 sit ups. Enjoy it for what it is and learn to laugh at yourself in this play.

  • Gerald Quist

    I loved this show! It is smart and funny and very deep . I saw it twice, Friday evening and then again on the following Saturday evening. These are thoughts and points of view that come at you fast, and I needed a second viewing to take it all in. The staging is spare and inventive. In the hands of a less talented group of actors, the entire work would fall flat.Mark Rylance is predictably wonderful, but Emily Swallow runs away with the show. She has a rare combination of beauty and masterful stage craft. Cheers to the Guthrie for getting behind this great and very unusual work.

  • Zack

    This play reminded me of two guys reading the phone book and pausing every once in a while to make fart jokes. It was mind-numbing (maybe that was the point?) – in any case I left at intermission and thought it was the dumbest play I’ve ever sat half-way through. I would recommend avoiding it. A few parts were funny but in a mindlessly simple way.