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Ice Glen

a Regional premiere
by Joan Ackermann

COMPANY : Essential Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 3401

SHOWING : July 05, 2009 - August 02, 2009



ICE GLEN by Joan Ackermann. Regional Premiere.
A wonderfully funny romantic drama about a poet who
doesn’t want her work to be published.  “Beautifully
written.” – Talkin’ Broadway.  “A lovely play.” –CurtainUp

Director Ellen McQueen
Stage Manager Emma Goidel
Set Design Robert Hadaway
Lighting Design Trish Harris
Assistant Stage Manager Redd Horrocks-Maier
Costume Design Jane Kroessig
Props Kathy Manning
Assistant Director Laura McMaster
Sound Design Jon Summers
Miss Quimby Redd Horrocks-Maier
Mrs. Roswell Jo Howarth
Denby Jim Sarbh
Sarah Harding Dina Shadwell
Peter Woodburn Jayson Smith
Grayson Spencer G. Stephens
Dulcie Bainbridge Ann Wilson
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Words and Wisdom
by Dedalus
Thursday, August 13, 2009
I like words. I believe in words. Words, when put in the right order, when marinated with a certain elegance and passion, can do more than we and all our (other) toys can ever hope to accomplish. Nothing feels as good as a kind word, or as harsh as a cruel one. Sticks and stones may indeed break bones, but words will break spirits, impasses, dilemmas, and, when given with a sneer or a tin-ear, words will even break wind (so to speak).

And, for two people, Sarah Harding and Peter Woodburn, words are at the heart of a classic crossed-purpose dilemma. Living in a familiar, late 19th-Century new England, Sarah is a reclusive poet who uses words to describe, to understand, to converse with her world. They are tiny pieces of her soul, private, life-affirming, protecting. Peter is a publisher, who accidentally stumbles upon a few of Sarah’s poems and wants to share them with the world. He, no less than Sarah, loves words and how they make him make sense of life. Unlike Sarah, it is other peoples’ words that drive his aesthetics, other peoples’ art that he feels compelled to share with the world.

For Sarah, it’s as if he has asked her to strip naked before a million strange eyes.

Joan Ackermann’s “Ice Glen” is the story of Sarah and Peter, the surprising turns their conflict brings to their lives, the surprising accommodations they are both able to make. In the hands of director Ellen McQueen and the Essential Theatre 2009 Festival, it’s a nicely acted ode to words, a love song to the power and beauty of speech and idiom and poetry and emotion.

Performed as an ensemble piece, it’s a work that gives each actor a moment to shine, gives them all a swirling stew of interacting needs and emotions and half-spoken, half-felt doubts and insecurities. Dina Shadwell gives Sarah a confidence and depth that rings true – we never hear any of her poetry, but Ms. Shadwell made me believe she was a poet. Not a spinster in the Jane Austen or Emily Dickinson mold (we hear vague references to an ex-husband, a lost family), she is nevertheless reclusive, preferring the company of slow-witted Denby (a marvelous Jim Sarbh) to her socially-conscious landlady, Dulce (Ann Wilson), and especially to the (to her) arrogant Peter Woodburn. She’s not lonely, but she’s happiest when she’s alone with her forest (and its wisdom), with her creatures (and their wisdom), with her words.

Servants Grayson (a marvelous Spencer G. Stephens) and Mrs. Roswell (a nicely broguish Jo Howarth) provide nice comic support, carrying most of the exposition load, creating incredibly precise characterizations and interactions. These may be the two best supporting performances of the year (so far).

If there is a weakness here, it may be with Jayson Smith’s Peter Woodburn. I haven’t decided if it’s a weakness in how the character was written or how it was performed, but I found him, as a whole, monochromatic and unconvincing. He makes some emotional choices (and actions) which seem “out of the blue,” then acts as if everything were going “according to plan.” He never seemed to evoke any passion for words, any emotion at all, but said his lines as written, with no apparent subtext or causation. Considering the strong characters with whom he shared the stage, this, for me, subverted the overall effect of the play, making it one I liked rather than one I loved.

Still and all, this is a good play, and a welcome addition to this year’s Essential Play Festival. The period was nicely evoked by Jane Kroessig’s costumes, by the drapery-heavy (and fluidly moving scene changes, and, above all, by the from-another-time, more-literate-than-life personalities of the characters, and the actors who played them.

The title refers to a hiker’s goal, a secluded glen that, even in the heat of summer, never loses its rime or reason, a small oasis of permafrost far from the frozen north. Symbolically, I suppose it could refer to that secret and secluded place in Sarah Harding that is circumscribed by her poetry, by the words that protect that secret core, the naked persona that remains hidden from the heat of public acclaim (or even any other reader).

But, even stripped of its meaning, isn’t “Ice Glen” a beautiful, evocative phrase in and of itself? And isn’t “Ice Glen” (the play) a beautiful and evocative collection of words and wisdoms and characters and moments guaranteed to thaw the permafrost heart of anyone hardy (and hearty) enough to brave the hike?

If my own words have any reason to exist, if I have used them with elegance (and not a little passion), I trust you will know the answer without me putting it into even more words.

-- Brad Rudy (

It was a choice and the script by JWS
Woodburn appreciates poetry but doesnt really understand the emotion until the very very end. It's what the play is about. He is a boring sad pathetic man lost in the world. In the sequel, he will be very exciting.


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