• by Rebecca Nimerfroh •
More than just a metaphor on how we play the hand of cards we are dealt in the game of life, “The Gin Game,” D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play produced by the White Heron Theatre Company paints a picture of two dynamic characters in the plight to keep the stories of their victimized lives from the self-shattering awareness of an outside perspective.
Weller Martin (played by Robert Rutland) gives a strong performance as a seasoned resident in a lack-luster, state-funded nursing home where he befriends the endearing and conservative, newly-arrived resident Fonsia Dorsey (played affectionately by Peggy Cosgrave). The two humorously commiserate on the subject of their shoddy new home, neglectful staff, and decrepit fellow tenants and, as a distraction, Weller suggests a hand of Gin, a game that Fonsia claims to be unfamiliar with until she effortlessly beats Weller with every hand she is dealt.
Weller’s humorous and encouraging conversation with Fonsia soon becomes peppered with aggravation at her seemingly effortless wins, and the audience watches as his blood boils each time she calls “Gin!” Sensing his frustration, Fonsia tries to bow out of a repeat game, but Weller becomes almost obsessed, determined to “crack” the code of her strategy (or complete lack thereof), all the while their benign conversation over cards delves deeper into the real reasons they both have ended up in the home to begin with. And here lies the most powerful message of the play, that what we assume are our truths, our stories of how we were wronged by others can so easily be tested and destroyed over something as simple as a game of cards with a stranger.
Warm and endearing at first, but electric and shocking in the end, “The Gin Game” proves to be a wild ride of self-perspective study, only made more exciting by the heart-pounding performances by Rutland and Cosgrave. One almost wants to squirm from the stage as the two get at each other’s throats both over cards and the accepted theories of their pasts. The resulting combination is a winning recipe that pulls at the heartstrings, and makes this play a must-see this season.
The Gin Game, presented by the White Heron Theatre Company, continues July 20, 21, and 22 in the Dreamland Theatre. Tickets at 508-825-5268, online at nantucketdreamland.org/shows/view-by-program/theater and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org