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Catch the Christmas spirit with 'Guys on Ice'

Marie Nitke/FOCUS The fun-loving cast of "Guys on Ice," during a rehearsal at Northwoods Assembly last week. Many of the lines and jokes in the show, they say, are ad-libbed.

Fishing for some fun this Christmas?

Then catch a performance of "Guys on Ice" at Northwoods Assembly of God Church in Perham.

Written by the church's Pastor, Dirk Currier, "Guys on Ice" is a comedic play that centers around Minnesota's most revered (some might say 'hole-y') winter activity - ice fishing.

"Spiritually, laughter is the best medicine," said Currier. "Christmas can get pretty hectic for a lot of people. This is just a good break for them - to come, relax... maybe bring the guys they know who ice fish. It's our way of saying, 'Lighten up! Enjoy yourselves!'"

Currier calls the performance a "multi-media 4-D experience." The show features special lighting, sound, video and other effects, such as fans to blow cool air into the audience, and 'real' snow from a snow machine.

Locals will find the show's set, costumes and cast of characters as familiar as hotdish and 'Uff da.'

Two true-to-life plywood fishhouses and a bait shop are the main set pieces, decorated with Vikings and Packers banners and upside-down five-gallon buckets for chairs (not to mention the Big Mouth Billy Bass - who hasn't heard of him?).

Costumes include all the climate-appropriate standards: puffy coats, bright orange stocking caps, rubber boots and well-worn overalls.

"This is a language of where we live," said Currier.

Then there are the characters - and they're characters, indeed.

There are Dally and Icky, the 'old-timers' who spend their days out on the ice, reeling in catch after catch and spouting off Ole and Lena-style jokes. In what was perhaps a bit of typecasting, these roles are played by real-life long-time ice fishermen (and notorious jokesters) Rick Waasdorp and Dallas Whipps.

"We fit the role," laughed Waasdorp good-naturedly.

Then there are Lars and Lil and their teenage son - ice fishing 'newcomers' who can't seem to catch a thing. They make several sophomoric attempts to change their luck, spying on Dally and Icky and trying to copy the old pros' methods. The family buys new poles, new bait, and even a new football banner for their fishhouse, thinking that'll turn things around, but they just keep coming up empty.

That's where the Christmas message comes in. As Currier explained it, Lars and Lil's big mistake is that they just keep doing what they see others doing; they're just going through the motions. It's like Christians who live "not in Christ," he said. "It's one thing to be living in Christ, it's another to be on the outside looking in."

"There's always a very good message," said Doreen Nelson (Lil) of the church's holiday shows. She should know - she's been involved in about eight of the last 12 of them. This one, she said, is "excellent; it's fun and it appeals to anyone."

Other "Guys on Ice" characters include a Game Warden and Wally, the owner of the bait shop, and his wife Hilda.

"She's a little uppity," said Jewel Wacker, describing her character, Hilda. "She thinks Wally smells like fish, and she doesn't like it."

All the cast members have been involved with performances at Northwoods before, and are long-time members of the church.

"We have a good family here," said Whipps.

"Guys on Ice" is about one hour in length. Performances will be held at Northwoods Assembly (at 945 W Main Street) on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. The public is welcome to attend. There is no cost for admission; free will donations will be accepted. All proceeds will go toward the church's upcoming missions trip to Haiti.