Ice Glen | Theater | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Ice Glen

Here I was thinking that since I don't have enough of one to worry about, me getting my heart broken was an impossibility. I've recently discovered otherwise.

It kills me to say it, but like so many men before him, Obama has turned out to be a disappointment. Between protecting current and former employees of Goldman Sachs and protecting current and former employees of the CIA, Barack has reminded me that hope is the state motto of Fool's Paradise.

And such chagrinned heartbreak is the same reaction I had to the Little Lake Theatre Company's Pittsburgh premiere of Joan Ackermann's melancholy comedy Ice Glen.

When alive, Mr. Bainbridge took into his Massachusetts mansion a handful of bruised souls, including his lovely, sheltered wife Dulce, a scandalously divorced poet named Sarah and a mentally challenged orphan called Denby. Following his death, his extended family and servants struggle for an emotional equilibrium made even more unbalanced when a magazine editor, Peter, shows up looking to publish Sarah's poems.

Sunny Disney Fitchett is the perfect choice for director, as she's demonstrated in the past with other intensely introspective chamber plays. And she's brought along a credible and uniformly strong cast for the ride. So I figured I could hope for a fairly successful evening.

Color me blue. Ackermann's play carries the seeds of its own downfall. The story is simple and there's considerable dramatic integrity behind it -- but the dialogue, if lush, is quite stilted, and the characters teeter on the edge of caricature.

Fitchett and company have emphasized the theatricality of the piece with a great deal of declamatory acting and aggressive, to-the-point playing. I can understand why they'd do so in their attempt to tackle this surprisingly elusive play. But ultimately it doesn't pay off.

I think, and it's only a supposition, that a certain über-naturalism might have worked better. Everyone needs to be a lot quieter ... in terms of both volume (why are people talking this loud to someone in the same room?) and in playing the objective. I couldn't help but wonder if maybe Ackermann's script is really about leaving subtle clues to bring the audience into the story, rather than presenting it with such determination.

But hey, don't listen to me -- I had hopes for this presidency, too.


Ice Glen through May 23. Little Lake Theatre, 500 Lakeside Drive South (off Route 19), Canonsburg. 724-745-6300 or

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