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Guys on Ice kicks off PBP season

MONTE DRAPER | BEMIDJI PIONEER (From left) Actors Michael Lee, Mike Postle and Brian Kelly rehearse from inside their fish house for “Guys on Ice,” the Paul Bunyan Playhouse production that opens tonight at the Historic Chief Theater. The play about two ice fishing buddies runs through June 15.

By Natalie Grosfield

Special to The Pioneer

BEMIDJI — After this past winter, ice fishing may be the furthest thing from our minds, and understandably so. But “Guys on Ice” is a delightful tale of two fishing buddies meeting life’s challenges from the cozy confines of their ice castle, you will be warmed from the inside out.

In fact, there may be a slight twinge of anticipation for the day you can haul your shanty back to your favorite local frozen piece of ice heaven.

And, if you are like many others and have to wonder about what goes on all day in those colorful and strategically placed shanties on the frozen waters of our local lakes, well, this is your opportunity to be a fly on the wall — or a minnow in the bucket. Join the local “legendary” fishermen Lloyd and Marvin on the ice as they share their secrets for catching the big ones, getting a date with the pretty gal who works at the local Pick’N’Save, or just how to hang onto a wife who doesn’t appreciate spending her anniversary at Lambeau Field quite as much as she should.

In “Guys on Ice,” the warmly dressed duo manage to sing and dance the day away while waiting for nibbles on their lines, as well as the highly anticipated, momentous arrival of the local cable fishing show star who has promised Marvin a shot at the big time with a documentary about his ice-fishing prowess. But, unfortunately for the guys, not everything is coming up walleyes. Yet, watching these two work things out with an occasional visit from the dreaded Ernie the Moocher, makes one believe that indulging in a fish house visit or two could solve just about any problem, big or small.

Catchy tunes, from “Ode to a Snowmobile Suit” to “The One That Got Away” to “Your Last Day on Earth” are on the menu and the simple messages they convey will charm your wool socks off.  Who knew snowmobile suits could qualify as musical instruments?

Bonni Allen, a Pull Bunyan Playhouse veteran seen onstage in “The Full Monty,” “Gypsy” and “Tommy,” is the musical director and proves as adept at making wonderful music as she is at singing, dancing and acting.

Brian Kelly as Lloyd is a newcomer at the PBP but his brand of monkeyshines has been seen in, among many other productions, 1,572 performances of “Triple Espresso.” With a composer friend, he wrote, directed and starred in the musical comedy “The Temp” and has written elementary educational school shows, as well as children’s CDs. Lloyd’s musical lament about the “The One That Got Away” hits home with an earnestness always evident in Brian’s take on the heartbroken charachter.

Michael Lee, a long-time veteran of the stage at the Historic Chief Theater, is back and he brings Marvin to life with a sweet and funny simplicity. His impression of Elvis in “I am the King” even brings the fish to the surface to slap a tail or two. Last seen at PBP in “The Full Monty,” Lee has been entertaining PBP audiences since he first arrived in 1994, and is marking his 20th season.

Ernie the Moocher, as played by PBP newcomer Mike Postle, is so convincing as a mooch,, he earned the dislike of the men in the audience during the preview. “Nobody likes guys like that” was overheard more than once. His version of Ernie is likeable and detestable at the same time, as it is difficult to dislike someone handing out prizes during intermission for the right answers to trivia questions about Minnesota.

Stage manager and property designer Teresa McGriff is back, joined by lighting designer Grant Merges, with costume design by Katherine Tieben Holt and scenic design by Zach Curtis.

Performances of “Guys on Ice” are underwritten by the Bemidji Jaycees and The Edgewater Group and made possible, in part, by a grant from the Region 2 Arts Council. The show opens at 8 p.m. Wednesday.