James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson bring energy and pathos to this revival of Donald L. Coburn’s play.
At the center of every human being lies a bitterness just waiting to claw its way out. Or at least that’s what Donald L. Coburn’s The Gin Game would have you believe. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize winning drama was revived on Broadway this past October in a hair-raising production granted a new context by stars James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, who bring an energy that pinned my virgin eyes to the stage for their entire two hour battle of wits. The story follows Weller Martin (Jones) and Fonsia Dorsey (Tyson), two reserved senior citizens at a retirement home who bond with each other over increasingly heated games of gin rummy.
As Martin becomes frustrated with Dorsey constantly beating him, their dialogue eventually steers toward the cracks in their facades; bad business decisions, poor familial relationships, and good ol’ fashioned cynicism bubble to the surface as both octogenarians throw their guards up and read each other from a distance. The Gin Game is very much a morality play in the vein of Arthur Miller (The Crucible, All My Sons) that slowly pries open the chest of middle America to reveal the bitter gangrenous beating heart underneath, but this rendition goes even deeper than that.
Amid boiling racial tensions in America from police brutality and decades-old income inequality, Weller and Dorsey’s (who were originally played by white actors Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy) particular issues and hangups (Weller’s bad business acumen, Dorsey’s broken relationship with her son) take on new meaning in a world where people of color still make 71 cents for every dollar a white person makes. Jones and Tyson are a fierce double act, weaving between tragedy and comedy on a dime, and it was a real pleasure seeing two Black legends go at it on the stage.
As a first time viewer, I did leave feeling that The Gin Game’s overall message was jarring and tough to swallow, but the journey there with two Black acting heavyweights proves that Coburn’s play still has legs almost 40 years later.
For more information visit here: http://thegingamebroadway.com/