The Gin Game: Theater review by Adam Feldman
Together, the stars of The Gin Game, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, are 175 years old. They draw from massive piles of skill and goodwill, and watching these masters play the audience is a delight. Watching them play cards for two hours, however, is less compelling. Jones is the ornery, hypercompetitive Weller; Tyson is the prim, shrewd Fonsia, whom he goads into multiple rounds of gin on a shabby porch outside their old-age home, where neither appears to have any other friends. As they chat, flirt and turn on each other, the play asks us to consider how much of their isolation stems from bad hands they’ve been dealt, and how much from bad judgment.
D.L. Coburn’s play was a hit in 1976, but it’s thin as a needle, with a sharp point at the end on which its poignancy relies. Leonard Foglia’s revival lacks that sense of purpose in its shape. The age of the actors perhaps makes them slower and cuter than might be ideal; the result is likable but shambling. In gin, after all, having a king and queen in your hand is not enough to win; they need to be built into a sequence. That sense of order is not in these cards.
Golden Theatre (Broadway). By D.L. Coburn. Directed by Leonard Foglia. With James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson. TRunning time: 2hrs. One intermission.
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