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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 9, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 06
Classic The Gin Game casts classic Seattle couple
Arts & Entertainment
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Classic The Gin Game casts classic Seattle couple

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

THE GIN GAME
VILLAGE THEATRE
Issaquah: thru February 25
Everett: March 2-25


A two-hander (a play with two characters) about a couple of older people in an old-folks home, The Gin Game opened in 1976 with the classic theatrical couple Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy. I'll bet these two were great to watch on stage. Now, Village Theatre has pulled off a similar feat by casting Kurt Beattie and Marianne Owen, the classic Seattle theatrical couple, in their production.

Directed by another Seattle treasure, Jeff Steitzer, the production is probably as good as you can imagine a production should be. Beattie and Owen hit all the right emotional notes as the two relatively new home inhabitants get to know each other and don't have much else to do but play gin rummy.

Weller (Beattie) thinks of himself as a great gin player. As he invites Fonsia (Owen) to play, he seems happy to mentor her, and clearly does not think she'll mount much of a challenge. Fonsia does tell him she has 'a bit' of experience with gin rummy, but he discounts that as they begin.

Instead of being an easy mark, Fonsia begins to win an incredible streak and Weller's competitive nature starts to cause him to erupt with unseemly rage. Fonsia tries to stop playing, but Weller literally grabs her and doesn't allow her to leave. No matter what she wants, the game must go on.

The play doesn't hold up as well, now, as when it won its Pulitzer Prize in 1978. It might have been a fresh idea in 1976 to create a play about older people. Truly, even now, there are not many plays that actively reflect that time of life, even as the theater-going population skews older and older. If companies are supposed to 'play to their audiences,' you'd think that a bunch of playwriting would be focused on older people's troubles. That doesn't seem to be the programming path.

Fonsia tries to stick up for herself and the play may now be a good example of what we mean when we say that people need to learn about 'consent.' Weller's anger also scares Fonsia and she doesn't know what to expect. Indeed, a lot of times, when women do things that men get angry about, men can and do become violent and scary. If it starts a conversation about that kind of interaction, that would be a good thing.

One way the production could choose to be stronger is to eliminate the intermission. The play turns out to be a fairly short one in 'run time' - i.e., the amount of time it takes to stage the whole thing. Here, intermission is 45 minutes in. The first two scenes are so tame as to be kind of boring, almost. The bang is in the second act, also two scenes. If you're not engaged by intermission, you'd have a tendency to leave and miss the fireworks.

If it were possible to eliminate that intermission, the play would immediately move into the third (of four) scenes and wake the audience up. There is both more movement (the couple dances) and more energy then. If you choose to see the play, make sure to stay for the payoff, the second act.

For more information, go to www.villagetheatre.org or call 425-392-2202.

Discuss your opinions with SGNcritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at MiryamsTheaterMusings.blogspot.com.

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