PHOTO BY JOAN MARCUS
Once upon a time Weller Martin was a force to be reckoned with in the business world, a corporate executive who commanded respect and admiration. Today he is still fiercely independent but his realm of influence has shrunken completely and he is free to wield his power over a few square feet of space in a rundown nursing facility he reluctantly calls home.
To enter Weller's tiny pocket of pride, head over to the Golden Theatre, 252 West 45th Street, New Yrok City to enjoy the legendary performances of two acting icons: James Earl Jones and Cicely tyson. They are bringing to life the feisty characters of Weller and Fonsia in D. L. Coburn's "The Gin Game," a tale of two old folks who are not yet ready to throw in their hand.
Kenny Rogers could probably give some card playing advice to Weller, but Weller would refuse to take it. He prides himself on his skills in the game of gin and his world gets considerably brighter when a new resident Fonsia agrees to play a hand or three of gin with him. For D. L. Coburn who won himself a Pulitzer Prize in 1978, the play in his own words is "a metaphor for fate and how the events of life are dealt to us. We have to play them as they come our way." This was Coburn's first play and it was initially performed on Broadway in 1977 starring husband and wife Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, garnering Tandy a Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.
As the card games continue, Weller gets increasingly agitated as Fonsia wins, easily and with style, finally exploding in fits of rage and curses. The pair dislike the other residents who are less mobile and verbal and when they do talk focus only on their aches and pains. As the games continue, we learn much of their secrets from the past. When they dance to one of Fonsia's favorite tunes, the moment is tender and sweet.
As too often happens, the pair have only each other for companionship. They have both been abandoned by family and friends, neglected and forgotten, left in a retirement home that has not seen good days for decades. Every time Fonsia says "gin," and it happens over and over again, Weller loses with bitterness and anger, forcing Fonsia to threaten to report him for bad behavior. To see these two fine actors in this classic encounter is a gift that you should not ignore opening. It is scheduled to run until January 10, 2016. Leonard Foglia directs this bittersweet waltz with affection.
For tickets ($57-141), call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or online at www.TheGinGameBroadway.com. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 7 p.m, Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m.
Watch how Fonsia drives Weller crazy every time she "plays her cards right."