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Nice Fish

Members say: Great acting, Funny, Clever, Delightful, Original
31 reviews
62 reviews

St. Ann’s Warehouse and American Repertory Theater present this New York premiere, about two men searching for answers on the last day of the fishing season. Starring Mark Rylance.

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On a frozen Minnesota lake, the ice is beginning to creak and groan. It’s the end of the fishing season, and two men are out on the ice angling for answers to life’s larger questions. They are hoping for something essential and immortal... when a construction worker roars across the ice on his snowmobile, spear, dynamite, and fancy dress in hand. The last blizzard of the season is about to begin.


Cast & Creatives (13)

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Reviews (93)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"It took only a few minutes for the audience to simmer down and settle into the bewitching theatrical spell cast by 'Nice Fish,' The production has been expertly directed by Claire van Kampen, and features wonderful performances not just from Mr. Rylance but from four other gifted actors...A few of the more whimsical moments in 'Nice Fish' left me, um, cold. But if one scene doesn’t grab you, you’re quickly on to the next." Full Review


"Jenkins' prose poems are an idiosyncratic blend of comedy and a full-length theatrical experience, these pithy observations delivered in a quirky manner quickly become tedious...Director Claire van Kampen has crafted a whimsical production...Unfortunately, the dreamy, meditative tone of 'Nice Fish' is more likely to lull you into a gentle slumber than cause your ears to perk up in recognition of an artfully phrased truth." Full Review


"'Nice Fish' is both the title and the punchline of the deliriously funny existential ruminations that Mark Rylance and the Midwestern folk-bard Louis Jenkins have fashioned from Jenkins’ poetry. It’s a compact, unpretentious play, but gorgeously set on stage...Some wonderful theatrical effects are executed during the show’s blackout scenes...The show ends with a coup de theatre that is pure surreal pleasure. But it’s Jenkins’ poetry that hangs in the air at the end of the show." Full Review

The Hollywood Reporter

"Featuring a hilarious deadpan performance by Mark Rylance, 'Nice Fish' is a great catch...'Nice Fish' is certainly disjointed and rambling, and its slow pace could provoke irritation among the less patient. But its whimsical observational humor is consistently amusing, and the performers deliver the poetry with unforced naturalness. All are excellent, but it's Rylance who enchants. " Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"'Nice Fish' has the flat, folksy vaudeville quality of that radio show ['A Prairie Home Companion'], with its rime of humor and undertow of malaise. But with Rylance bringing his usual brilliance to the proceedings, and with a magical production directed by Claire Van Kampen, the play is clearly aiming for something deeper, and sometimes, despite the thin ice, achieves it." Full Review

Time Out New York

"'Nice Fish' is a whimsical, ultimately resonant portrait of lost souls waiting to hook or be hooked...It’s all vaguely 'Waiting for Godot'–ish, and Jenkins makes a modest bid as a flyover-state Samuel Beckett. Generally, though, the ultimate lure is a chance to see a great actor like Rylance cutting loose." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"Claire van Kampen directs with a playful and appealing touch, favoring abrupt blackouts as a mode of comedy and encouraging the actors to attack the material lightly...The whole may not add up to much more than a gently absurdist evocation of mood...Still, there are few greater joys in the contemporary theater than watching Rylance do his wide-eyed, thick-voiced thing." Full Review

Lighting & Sound America

"Rylance has given us so many magnificent things that I guess we should allow him his little indulgences, but your ability to enjoy his latest vehicle will depend on your tolerance for a plotless evening of Upper Midwestern wryness...'Nice Fish' completes its journey from amusing to bemusing to interminable...At least Claire van Kampen's direction maintains a light touch, and the design credits are first rate...Passable entertainment, I guess." Full Review

AM New York

"The problem with the play is not all that different from anything else built from pre-existing material: the poems, despite their humorous and meditative qualities, do not offer the narrative sustenance or characterization to support a 95-minute piece of theater, leaving it fragmented, uneventful and generally unsatisfying...Rylance is a wonderfully mercurial and inventive actor...'Nice Fish' is essentially 'Waiting for Godot' on a frozen lake." Full Review


"Jenkins’ work tends, like Keillor’s monologues abot the fictional Minnesota town, toward stream-of-consciousness musings that begin in a specific moment before spiraling off into morality tales or nonsense, take your pick. Either way, the result is entertainment of an extremely high order: this is the kind of play that gives situation comedy its good name." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Imagine Beckett’s 'Waiting for Godot' on a frozen lake and you’ve got an idea of what to expect from 'Nice Fish,' an existential vaudeville piece...While there are moments that hook you and amuse and charm, the show, told in short scenes between blackouts in lieu of actual transitions, loses its grip. These ice men cometh — and sometimes boreth." Full Review

Front Mezz Junkies

"A charmingly sweet play brought to us by the brilliant and fun mind of Mark Rylance and masterfully simple poetry of Louis Jenkins is coming to us in a beautifully realized production...It truly is exceptional to watch these wonderful actors having such fun, and feeling the joy of playing with these amazing words and works of poetry." Full Review


"This proves to be a charming and witty – though lighthearted – evening based on Jenkins’ wise and knowing prose poems...'Nice Fish' by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins is an entertaining showcase for the poet’s work and gives Rylance a refreshing comic turn in a lighter vein that we usually see him. The physical vaudeville and the stage picture are particularly memorable. Its clever and droll witticisms may not teach you anything new, but will prove diverting and worth the reminder." Full Review

The Wrap

"The effort resembles a weird hybrid of Samuel Beckett and 'Avenue Q' but without the music. There’s also no music in Jenkins’s poetry...What’s learned here is not unlike the lessons told late at night by that depressed student down the hallway in your college dorm. Near the end of the play [director] van Kampen pulls so many stunts out of her directorial bag of tricks — people breaking through the ice, stagehands clearing the set, big fish wiggling — that she ends up lampooning the material." Full Review


"The ice may be groaning on the frozen Minnesota lake where Mark Rylance and Jim Lichtscheidl are mulling life’s mysteries, but the dialogue is solid and crisp... if sometimes as rascally as a sturgeon with zero interest in your bait and tackle...Rylance's work here is no fish story...'Nice Fish' doesn’t have an urban sensibility that will be instantly appealing to New York theatergoers, but on the other hand, it’s nice to get out of town at this time of year, isn’t it?" Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"A self-indulgent boondoggle (be it on a modest scale). The main problem is Jenkins’s prose poems…Such whimsy is charming in small doses but becomes repetitive...Rylance’s puckish mien and sing-song Wisconsin accent admittedly keep much of the audience chortling along throughout. But only in his interactions with a drolly officious DNR officer does the comedy rise above vaudeville...'Nice Fish' feels like an extended workshop that never really came together." Full Review

Broadway & Me

"Surprisingly charming should get your butt out there to see it...I would have thought that Rylance had devoted his entire career to honing the superb comedic chops he displays here. The rest of the cast ain't bad either and special kudos have to go to Todd Rosenthal for the wittiest set design I've seen in a long time." Full Review


"Written by Rylance and Jenkins, 'Nice Fish' draws heavily on the poet's work. It's a theatrical experiment, an existential poem, that takes place in the flat, almost featureless landscape of a frozen lake in Minnesota...All the giddy silliness has a point — life is unpredictable and weird and often formless. Erik and Ron are afloat on an ice floe...They bravely face life's futility with jokes, thoughtful observations, and the desire to simply catch a nice fish." Full Review

Village Voice

"Part oddball bromance, part poetic meditation, part talking diorama, the unevenly charming concoction follows a pair of dudes as they spend the day fishing on a frozen lake...As the piece unfolds, lacking the armature of narrative development, Rylance, Jenkins, and van Kampen resort to increasingly surreal antics in the interest, it seems, of keeping our attention...There's a lot of beauty here, but in theater, as in fishing, it pays to be patient." Full Review

The Stage (UK)

"As they pass the time, ruminating on life and fishing, Claire van Kampen’s production starts to feel a bit like 'Waiting for Godot' on ice, with similar shafts of desperate humour and rueful reflections on the pointlessness of life...It's not much of a play, to be honest, but as a chance to relish the sublime eccentric charms of Rylance at his best, it's a hoot." Full Review

What's On Off Broadway

"If the prose poem format, the wandering thought lines, enchants you, then 'Nice Fish' is quietly wonderful. If you enjoy laughing at humor both sly and obvious, then 'Nice Fish' is loudly wonderful...The two men are amazing...'Nice Fish' is funny and silly and touching. It slyly delivers laughs along with insights, so you never feel like you're being lectured or on the lookout for the 'big answers'...The director is quite comfortable letting the prose set the pace of the piece." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

"A charming, eccentric ninety-minute existential meditation on fishing, friendship, and life, co-authored by Rylance and Jenkins...'Nice Fish' bears a startling resemblance to Beckett’s 'Waiting for Godot'...Thanks to Rylance’s indomitable comedic spirit and Jenkins’s poetic words, 'Nice Fish' offers a happier world view than Beckett’s – one that may send you up north to try ice-fishing yourself." Full Review

Entertainment Weekly

"'Fish' is at its best when it’s at its most absurd: Rylance, in a fluorescent orange snowsuit, attempting to entertain his intense fisherman by pretending to be a snowman…The waters get muddied when other random characters float in. Not that sweet young sauna owner Flo and the DNR Man aren’t amusing additions...They simply seem unnecessary — particularly since Rylance and Lichtscheidl prove such a perfect, almost vaudevillian pairing." Full Review


"Written by Louis Jenkins and Rylance, the show mediates on aging, relationships, and the quirks of Midwestern life. The language is by turns poetic and prosaic, mystical and mystifying – but the impeccable cast makes it endlessly watchable." Full Review

Slant Magazine

"A peculiar, hilarious, and gently poignant play about two men on a short weekend ice-fishing trip…Both oddly moving and knee-slapping, thanks especially to Rylance's complex delivery…He employs a slurry Midwestern accent and opens his eyes wide and deadens them to create a kind of slow-witted, blithe, and persistent confusion…There are no false mannerisms or inflections, even though the actors speak over-stylized dialogue with unnatural fluency. It's all in the service of no story." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Delightful, Confusing, Entertaining

See it if you can't miss anything Mark Rylance does and you have a great affinity for whimsy.

Don't see it if you need a story and characters to hook into for an hour and forty five minute swim upstream.

Funny, Delightful, Confusing

See it if you don't mind being confused at times if the payoff is funny, thoughtful moments delivered by an exceptional cast

Don't see it if prose poetry is too off-putting for you, you can't tolerate mundane or confusing moments

Delightful, Enchanting, Great acting, Profound, Hilarious

See it if You're a Mark Rylance fan. This is him in all his quirky glory. Fun. Funny. Heartwarming and sweet.

Don't see it if You don't like quirky. This is weird but in the sweetest kindest way. It sneaks up on you and before you know it, it's touched your heart.

Original, Ambitious, Dizzying, Great acting, Confusing

See it if Theatre of the Absurd is your thing

Don't see it if you need a plot to remain engaged

Funny, Captivating, Entertaining, Unique

See it if you don't like Mark Rylance and want to have a glimpse at his mind.

Don't see it if you like a play with clear storyline.

Original, Ambitious, Great acting, Confusing, Slow

See it if you want to enjoy an endearing performance by Mark Rylance & enjoy broad, existential conversations about the meaning of life.

Don't see it if you're easily confused with non-linear narratives. I'm sorry to say that I was one of the people who simply "didn't get it". =(

Ambitious, Great acting, Quirky, Great writing

See it if You enjoy new, quirky plays

Don't see it if You don't like fish

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Delightful, Thought-provoking

See it if Enjoy thoughtfulness. This is a play for true theatre lovers.

Don't see it if You don't like poetry you may not get it. This show is based on a series of poems that are somewhat esoteric.

Funny, Ambitious, Clever, Exquisite

See it if You like brilliant acting, clever staging, thought provoking prose and quirky humor

Don't see it if you prefer traditional narrative

Clever, Edgy, Great acting, Great staging

See it if Creative dialogue driven "mise en scene" poetic drama. Mark Rylance... amazing

Don't see it if You need a lot of action.

Original, Enchanting, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You like Mark Rylance. And if you enjoy theatre as a creative playground. It was an amusing and enjoyable production.

Don't see it if You're expecting a revelation based on word of mouth. You might be disappointed. The show is slight but extremely pleasurable.

Funny, Ambitious, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Entertaining

See it if you like Mark Rylance (who doesn't?), poetry, quirky humor and the Saint Ann's Warehouse (great new digs).

Don't see it if you want a solid story line and everything has to make 100% sense; you have to be able to go with the flow on this one.

Funny, Original, Clever, Enchanting, Great acting

See it if you love Mark Rylance. I saw the original because I loved Matthew Cowles and then fell for Mark Rylance.

Don't see it if you don't like whimsical.

Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if you love visual and sound poetry, intelligent and subversive humor and Mark Rylance!

Don't see it if you look for linearity or definitiveness in storytelling

Funny, Delightful, Great acting

See it if you like Mark Rylance - he is such a delight on this stage

Don't see it if If you're looking for something a little more serious - this was cute and funny

Funny, Enchanting, Quirky, Abstract, Precise

See it if you're fishing for whimsical entertainment that evokes a state of mind & offers insight into the leanings of legend in the making Rylance.

Don't see it if you think a play without a plot & character development wears out its welcome faster than yesterday's fish.

Original, Clever, Quirky, Entertaining, Surprising

See it if you'll enjoy quirky & entertaining musings on the meaning of life written by the same guy who wrote Mark Rylance's Tony acceptance speeches.

Don't see it if the absence of plot and character development is a deal breaker, despite the show's other charms.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You are in for a poetic treat of joyfulness

Don't see it if If you want a straight forward play with plot and storylines.

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great staging

See it if Are a Mark Rylance fan, a man who is a chameleon brilliant actor. Quirky, funny engaging

Don't see it if don't like to think at the theater

Funny, Great acting, Quirky, Great writing, Poetic

See it if You like poetry (and philosophy) in your theatre. You like Rylance. You like Beckett and Theatre of the Absurd. You are into existentialism?

Don't see it if You want clarity and action in your theatre.

Ambitious, Delightful, Intelligent, Quirky, Great staging

See it if you are in the mood for a brief, charming and well-done interlude with a Garrison Keillor like approach

Don't see it if you are seeking great poetry, meaningful insight or plot

Funny, Original, Clever, Intelligent, Profound

See it if Mark Rylance fan? See it. Brilliant set and theater environment. Thoughtful, absorbing play. I recommend it highly.

Don't see it if Why not go? Brooklyn / Dumbo too far? GMAB.

Clever, Indulgent, Confusing, Great staging

See it if if you are a Mark Rylance fan or a fan of clever design and staging. Poetry and Louis Jenkin fans will also enjoy it.

Don't see it if if you can't stand mildly pretentious theatre. The show isn't really about anything and never exceeds Waiting for Godot: On Ice.

Funny, Clever, Great acting, Profound, Entertaining

See it if you like absurdist comedies. This is Waiting For Godot On Ice with lots of insights into Life (capital "L" intended).

Don't see it if you only like shows with a plot. This has almost no story arc, but it does make you think and laugh.

Funny, Thoughtful, Endearing, Poetic

See it if You enjoy language and visual delights washing over you. Everyday "prose poems", rather than plot, are the basis, like "Love & Information."

Don't see it if You need a hard plotline and defined relationships; you prefer Taxi Driver over Prairie Home Companion in terms of tone