Review: The Fisherman (Stage Left Theatre)

| February 26, 2012
A scene from Stage Left Theatre's "The Fisherman" by Jayme McGhan. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)       
The Fisherman 

Written by Jayme McGhan
Directed by Drew Martin  
at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map)
thru April 1  |  tickets: $25   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


Working-class tribute is a bit too placid on the pier


A scene from Stage Left Theatre's "The Fisherman" by Jayme McGhan. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)

Stage Left Theatre presents
The Fisherman

Review by Katy Walsh 

I always knew when my dad had been fishing.  He smelled like pipe tobacco and bass.  There were leftover old-fashion doughnuts on the kitchen counter and fish for dinner.  And life was good. 

Stage Left Theatre presents the world premiere of The Fisherman.  The Twins are losing.  The carp are biting.  The beer is cooling.  For Chucky and Carl, those are the essentials in their retirement plan.  The brothers have been working all their life toward that goal.  They even invested in lake property.  When their company declares bankruptcy, five hundred people lose their retirement.  The brothers, their friends and colleagues are screwed.  Their lifetime of work has been for nothing. Carl decides to take action.  His decision changes everything.  The Fisherman casts his line into the shark pool.  

Playwright Jayme McGhan has penned a tribute to the working class.  McGhan writes about corporate corruption from the point of view of those affected by top decision makers.  The entire story takes place on a pier.  The contrast between the hardcore corporate devastation and the laid-back fishing pastime is powerful.  The characters are relatable.  And the dialogue flows naturally.  Under the direction of Drew Martin, the pacing is gentle and rhythmic.  This works to establish tone but it’s too soft for the conclusion.  Without spoiling a plot point, I’ll just say Carl’s catastrophic action doesn’t elicit a realistic enough reaction from his family.  Their stormy times need to make the waters more turbulent.   It’s a little too placid on the pier.

The cast does a terrific job pulling us into their a-river-runs-through-it lives.   The atmosphere is a casual sit on the pier while drinking a brewski and casting a line.  Michael Pacas (Carl) is solid.  Pacas is mostly steady and emotionless which makes his moments of cruelty that much more disturbing.  Sandy Elias (Chucky) is a playful sidekick.  Elias interjects moments of humor into the drama. 

I have no trouble believing these guys are brothers that spend every free moment fishing.  It’s the conspirator stuff that I can’t quite connect them to.  Kate Black-Spence (Jenny) and Ian Maxwell (Mutt) also provide fine, even keel family personas. But their responses to disaster scenarios are missing the emotion to hook me in.

McGhan knows how to tell a fish story.  But if he’s going after the big one, he needs to passionately commit.  The stakes are high and I want to feel it.  It’s a fish or cut bait moment.  

Rating: ★★½

The Fisherman continues through April 1st at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 3pm.  Tickets are $25, and are available by phone (773-975-8150) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at time: 2 hours, which includes one intermission)

The Fisherman - Stage Left Theatre - chair on dock

All photos by Johnny Knight 




Michael Pacas (Carl); Sandy Elias* (Chucky); Kate Black-Spence* (Jenny); Ian Maxwell* (Mutt)

behind the scenes

Drew Martin (director); Tara Malpass (stage manager); Kristin Toerpe (production manager); Alan Donahue (set); John Kohn III* (lighting); Theresa Ham (costumes); Jeff Shields (props); Adam Smith*, Jeffrey Levin (co-sound design); Brian Plocharcyzk* (fight choreography); Zev Valancy* (dramaturg); Katie Horwitz (asst. director); Seam Studios (graphic design); Johnny Knight (photos)

* denotes Stage Left ensemble member


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Category: 2012 Reviews, Katy Walsh, New Work, Stage Left Theatre, Theater Wit, World Premier

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