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Quiet on the Midwestern Front: Louis Jenkins’s Nice Fish

The stage is an icy expanse and the narrative and the lives of its characters are just as flat as this Midwestern freeze.

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Quiet on the Midwestern Front: Louis Jenkins’s Nice Fish
Photo: Teddy Wolff

The folksy prose poetry of Louis Jenkins makes up the dialogues and monologues that constitute this peculiar, hilarious, and gently poignant play about two men on a short weekend ice-fishing trip. Most scenes are short, the quick banter or petit insights punctuated by darkness, abruptly and effectively final like the last frame of a comic strip—or the bottom of a page. The Midwestern ethos that informs these sketches is reminiscent of Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion (at one point, the characters even sing a song), especially his signature monologue, “The News from Lake Wobegon.” Mark Rylance, who adapted the play alongside Jenkins, wonders and then playacts what a snowman might say; he rocks out with a mounted fish singing the surreal song from that McDonald’s commercial, “Gimme back that filet-o-fish,” laughing and dancing until the “what if it were you hanging up on this wall?” section, at which point he becomes risibly reflective.

That scene sums up the show: both oddly moving and knee-slapping, thanks especially to Rylance’s complex delivery. The British actor’s recent Oscar nomination for Bridge of Spies might have made a few movie fans ask, “Who?” But theatergoers know him well. He’s won three Tonys since his Broadway debut in 2008, the first two of which he notoriously accepted, without warning, by reciting Jenkins’s poetry. The text of the 2008 speech, a poem called “The Back Country,” appears in Nice Fish (also the name of a Jenkins collection from which much of the play was drawn), as does the persona Rylance adopted to perform it. 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. In one of the first scenes, he drops his phone into an ice-fishing hole. Then his sunglasses. It’s an adept bit of slapstick, and a taste of the physical and verbal comedy to come.

Rylance’s sparring partner is played by Jim Lichtscheidl, a gruff straight man and the perfect counterpoint to his costar’s goofy charm. Kayli Carter, as a neighbor, and Jenkins, as her gruffer-than-Lichtscheidl grandfather, show up for a spell; their voices and movements are perfectly calibrated, creating precise harmonies with the rest of the cast, like a first-rate chamber orchestra. (Bob Davis is also terrific, in a small appearance as an officer from Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources, easily rattling off esoteric bureaucratic regulations with the familiarity of the names of family members.) 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. The stage is an icy expanse—or rather, a crinkly plastic sheet over a white-painted stage, with tiny trees at the rear to accentuate the illusion of perspective and a quarter-scale shack in the middle ground—and the narrative and the lives of its characters are just as flat as this Midwestern freeze. They’re as plain as the Plains. Below the chucklesome chatting is a hint of American resignation, toward age or youth, toward change or constancy, toward death or life. There’s a futility to hoping, to trying, the play suggests, because success is as empty as failure. The title refers to how you could catch the greatest fish of your life, and what do you get except for a few people you don’t really care about saying, “Hey. Nice fish”?

Louis Jenkins’s Nice Fish runs through March 27 at St. Ann’s Warehouse.

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Watch: The Long-Awaited Deadwood Movie Gets Teaser Trailer and Premiere Date

Welcome to fucking Deadwood!

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Deadwood
Photo: HBO

At long last, we’re finally going to see more of Deadwood. Very soon after the HBO series’s cancellation in 2006, creator David Milch announced that he agreed to produce a pair of two-hour films to tie up the loose ends left after the third season. It’s been a long road since, and after many false starts over the years, production on one standalone film started in fall 2018. And today we have a glorious teaser for the film, which releases on HBO on May 31. Below is the official description of the film:

The Deadwood film follows the indelible characters of the series, who are reunited after ten years to celebrate South Dakota’s statehood. Former rivalries are reignited, alliances are tested and old wounds are reopened, as all are left to navigate the inevitable changes that modernity and time have wrought.

And below is the teaser trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAcftIUE6MQ

Deadwood: The Movie airs on HBO on May 31.

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Watch: Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Gets Teaser Trailer

When it rains, it pours.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Photo: Columbia Pictures

When it rains, it pours. Four days after Quentin Tarantino once more laid into John Ford in a piece written for his Beverly Cinema website that saw the filmmaker referring to Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon as Tie a Yellow Ribbon, and two days after Columbia Pictures released poster art for QT’s ninth feature that wasn’t exactly of the highest order, the studio has released a teaser for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. The film was announced early last year, with Tarantino describing it as “a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood.”

Set on the eve of the Manson family murders, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tells the story of TV actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), as they try to get involved in the film industry. The film also stars Margot Robbie (as Sharon Tate), Al Pacino, the late Luke Perry, Damian Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Emile Hirsch, Timothy Olyphant, Kurt Russell, and Bruce Dern in a part originally intended for the late Burt Reynolds.

See the teaser below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Scf8nIJCvs4

Columbia Pictures will release Once Upon a Time in Hollywood on July 26.

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Watch the Stranger Things 3 Trailer, and to the Tune of Mötley Crüe and the Who

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

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Stranger Things 3
Photo: Netflix

A wise woman once said that there’s no such thing as a coincidence. On Friday, Jeff Tremaine’s The Dirt, a biopic about Mötley Crüe’s rise to fame, drops on Netflix. Today, the streaming service has released the trailer for the third season of Stranger Things. The clip opens with the strains of Mötley Crüe’s “Home Sweet Home,” all the better to underline that the peace and quiet that returned to the fictional rural town of Hawkins, Indiana at the end of the show’s second season is just waiting to be upset again.

Little is known about the plot of the new season, and the trailer keeps things pretty vague, though the Duffer Brothers have suggested that the storyline will take place a year after the events of the last season—duh, we know when “Home Sweet Home” came out—and focus on the main characters’ puberty pangs. That said, according to Reddit sleuths who’ve obsessed over such details as the nuances of the new season’s poster art, it looks like Max and company are going to have to contend with demon rats no doubt released from the Upside Down.

See below for the new season’s trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEG3bmU_WaI

Stranger Things 3 premieres globally on July 4.

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