Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

Nice Fish

by Mark Rylance

From celebrated actor Mark Rylance, a comedic existential play centering on two ice fishermen in Minnesota, based on the prose poems of Louis Jenkins.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 96
  • Publication Date October 17, 2017
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2685-6
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

On a frozen Minnesota lake, it’s the end of the fishing season and two friends are out on the ice, angling for something big, something down there that, had it the wherewithal, could swallow them whole. With the existentialism of a Beckett two-hander but set in the icy and folksy depths of the Midwest, Nice Fish is a unique portrayal of a friendship forged out of boredom, bad jokes, and an ability to wait for a really nice fish. Nice Fish premiered at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge Massachusetts, directed by Claire van Kampen, and played to rave reviews in a sold-out extended run in New York in February 2016 at St. Ann’s Warehouse, starring Mark Rylance and Jim Lichtscheidl, and featuring Louis Jenkins. The play transferred to London for a run in the West End at the Harold Pinter Theatre beginning in November 2016.


“For a certain slice of New Yorkers—you know who you are—Mark Rylance is the cultural deity that Beyoncé is to, well, a different slice of New Yorkers . . . Nice Fish [is] a quirky charmer of a play . . . Mr. Jenkins’s language, moving like the flowing of a river through both the shallows and the depths, has a lightness of touch even when it is at its most plainly philosophical. He finds the spiritual in the ebb and flow of daily life, and meanings implicit in things that can be seen, touched, held . . . Jenkins’s seemingly modest writing, attuned to close observation of everyday experience, contains, beneath its homely surfaces, larger meanings that glide softly into your mind and heart, like those elusive fish swimming beneath the ice.” —Charles Isherwood, New York Times (Critics’ Pick)

“Deliriously funny existential ruminations . . . A compact, unpretentious play . . . [An] imaginative piece about two ice fishermen on a frozen lake in Minnesota . . . Jenkins’ poetry . . . hangs in the air at the end.” —Marilyn Stasio, Variety

Nice Fish has the flat, folksy vaudeville quality of [A Prairie Home Companion], with its rime of humor and undertow of malaise . . . Rylance bring[s] his usual brilliance to the proceedings.” —New York

Nice Fish is a whimsical, ultimately resonant portrait of lost souls waiting to hook or be hooked.” —Time Out New York

“Entertainment of an extremely high order: this is the kind of play that gives situation comedy its good name . . . The final scene, its poignance as well-earned as the laughs that came before, reminded me of Rene And Georgette Magritte After The War, the ode to aging by Paul Simon, another great stream-of-consciousness writer . . . Nice Fish unfolds like a lark . . . but resonates with meaning well below the—well, you know—below the surface.” —Deadline

Nice Fish is a great catch . . . Its whimsical observational humor is consistently amusing.” —Hollywood Reporter

“A wild ride into the depths of existence . . . There’s a whiff of The Red Green Show here, some Waiting for Godot, a little Seinfeld, Moby Dick and animistic philosophy . . . [A] magnificent mess. We feel part of something that is being created, in fits and starts, out of chaos. The play’s wildness courts disaster at the same time it amazes with its bravery. How infrequently we get to see such raw, present and alive work . . . Nice Fish howls like a snowstorm.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Unexpected and refreshing, profound and touching.” —Minnesota Monthly

“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 . . . Doddering good humor.” —NBC New York

“[An] eccentric ice-fishing comedy . . . Fish is at its best when it’s at its most absurd.” —Entertainment Weekly

Nice Fish is nothing less than the Waiting for Godot of ice fishing, punctuating life’s long (and sometimes apparently senseless) wait with moments of reflection, physical comedy, absurdity, profound sadness, and startling delight.” —AisleSayTwinCities.com

“Brilliant . . . The writing is stunning . . . The language is just gorgeous.” —Observer (UK)

“If Samuel Beckett were to resurrect just long enough to script a couple of episodes of Prairie Home Companion, the result might resemble Nice Fish . . . which merges existential dread with genial folksiness . . . The writing . . . [is] intensely charming in its cock-eyed humanity.” —Guardian (UK)