From a distance, the excitement level of The Gin Game
looks to be a notch below Monday-night bingo. Two seniors, Weller (Allen Nause) and Fonsia (Vana O’Brien), bitch and bicker over an unending series of gin rummy games on the back porch of a cheap retirement home. They first meet at the opening of D.L. Coburn’s 1976 play, Weller supposedly a card shark while Fonsia is just learning the rules of the game. Their lives appear increasingly desperate over the weeks-long series of games, which Fonsia continually and demurely wins. Weller, crotchety and foulmouthed, endures the repeated defeats in hilarious outbursts of “Goddamnit!” Director JoAnn Johnson does not allow her actors to ham up their quirks and faults, so The Gin Game
is tragicomic in a Chekhovian way: We cry when they cry, but we laugh when they fall. When Fonsia asks if Weller has any ailments, he bitterly snaps, “I have one of the most advanced cases of old age in the history of medical science.” The line is one of the play’s funniest, but also one of its saddest. Throughout, Weller and Fonsia’s love/hate relationship plays out unexpectedly, and though the ending is downright lugubrious, we laugh all the way there.
Artists Repertory TheatrePhone:
1515 SW Morrison St.Website: http://www.artistsrep.org/onstage/201213-season/the-gin-game.aspx