The Gin Game is a new Broadway play starring James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson. The production, written by D.L. Coburn looks at growing old and the challenges that come with it. It especially looks at how past life decisions or vices may make old age particularly difficult. The show first premiered in 1977.
There’s wasn’t much information available about the play going into it, so I went in blind for the most part. This was also by choice. With the aforementioned Jones and Tyson at the forefront I knew there couldn’t be much disappointment. There performances proved to be quite spectacular, and for a show that only features their two characters, they do their part of carrying the story as Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey.
Weller and Fonsia meet at an old folks home in the middle of nowhere. They develop a friendship to combat the loneliness and boredom that engulfs the facility. In the case of Weller, he has been living at this old folks home for a few months, while Fonsia is new to the facilities and it’s not her first choice of living quarters. Weller “introduces” her to his favorite card game, Gin, and the pair begin to play, while discussing the nuances of the game and how life has led them to this point.
The set is simple, just the back porch ares of this old folks home for both acts of the play. Simple is the way here, two characters, not many moving pieces, just bare bones theater. Nothing wrong with that, actors just have to be at their finest each and every night.
I would’ve loved to have another character in the mix, even for a brief appearrance. The dialogue towards the end of the play was a bit confusing to get through as well, primarily because the takeaway of the play was unclear. The Gin Game seemed to be leading one of two directions throughout, but it doesn’t make it to either place, instead choosing to fall somewhere in the balance. That may just be testamate to old age and life in a home—landing somewhere in the balance of life before death. For a production where everything else is so simple just wish the end was the same way.
Overall, an opportunity to see James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson on stage together truly can’t be missed. It helps if you remember the card game of gin too.
The show runs through January 10th at the Golden Theater, 252 W. 45th Street between Broadway and 8th. More info and tickets available at http://thegingamebroadway.com/