‘The Gin Game’ at John Golden Theater – Review

By Jonathan Spira on 1 December 2015
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One. ONE. Two. TWO. Three. THREE. In a booming voice, James Earl Jones, as Weller Martin, counts out cards for a game of gin with Cicely Tyson, as Fonsia Dorsey, at a nursing home in the roles originated by Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in 1977 in D.L. Coburn’s “The Gin Game.”

Fonsia suffers from chronic diabetes, Weller from “one of the most advanced cases of old age in the history of medical science” and they meet on an underutilized sun porch at an unnamed “home for the aged.” The porch resembles Fred Sanford’s junk yard, overflowing with abandoned items ranging from sinks, chairs, as well as Martin and Dorsey, apparently also abandoned as we discover that no one has come to see them on visiting day.

Jones and Tyson are themselves at an age where many are already in a retirement home. Two-time Tony Award winner Jones, 84, continues to appear frequently on the Broadway stage as well as in the West End, having recently performed in “On Golden Pond,” “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” and “Much Ado About Nothing,” as does Tyson, who won two Emmys for starring in “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and, more recently, a Tony for “The Trip to Bountiful.”


Weller, upon meeting Fonsia, offers to teach her how to play gin rummy, and they start on a series of games that serves as a backdrop to a series of conversations about life, aging, family, and the future. “I guess we just lived too long,“ Weller laments.

They chat, flirt, and bicker like an old married couple. Indeed, the conversations become sparring matches as the two joust and try to best each other, exploit each other’s weaknesses, as they play the hands they have been dealt.

The performances delivered by Mr. Jones and Ms. Tyson are heartfelt and charming as they present just the right combination of orneriness and tenderness.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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