BWW Review: THE GIN GAME at The Beckwith Theatre Company

BWW Review: THE GIN GAME at The Beckwith Theatre CompanyOne would think a writer would be mad to take two people, lock them on a porch, and force them to talk through multiple games of gin rummy to entertain an audience. That is exactly what The Beckwith Theatre Company does with its production of "The Gin Game".

The two main characters, Weller Martin (Max Sala) and Fonsia Dorsey (Lucinda Gary Moriarty) start the show off by meeting each other on the porch of a nursing home and Weller, seeking a break in the monotony, invites Fonsia over to learn how to play Gin. In fact, it will be impossible for you to leave this show NOT knowing how to play gin and you will want to play it as soon as you get home.

The games start out very congenial, with Fonsia having a great streak of beginner's luck that one patron I spoke to said reminded him of "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead". It really does seem impossible as the show goes on that one person can have this much luck in them.

Weller, however, still tries to figure out how to beat Fonsia over the series of four nights that we see them interact. By the third night they play, you will be counting along with Weller's "1,1,2,2,3,3,4,4,5,5,6,6,7,7,8,8,9,9,10,10, and 11" as he deals hand after hand after hand in the hopes of not only defeating Fonsia, but clearly something else going on in his mind.

Moriarty and Sala do a fantastic job of playing this elderly couple with comic timing that makes it look easy. Sala has a slow burn punchline move that makes every hand a source of uproarious laughter. And Moriarty's bird like movements as she checks her cards, looks at Weller, or even in just reaching into her bag, give her character a very absent minded look that seems, at certain times, to be a put on not only for Weller, but for the audience as well.

BWW Review: THE GIN GAME at The Beckwith Theatre Company

As the ever patient teacher, Sala does a great job of keeping the game going and teaching not only Fonsia, but the entire audience, how Gin is played and what are considered dumb moves that only an idiot would make. I now know never to hang onto a face card while playing a hand. This is all punctuated by Fonsia's slight grasp of the game, to the point that you will swear she is hustling Weller almost the whole the first act.

The show itself was nearly flawless, with only Weller's cane taking me out of certain moments of the show. Sala had a tendency to switch it from one hand to another and did not use it while climbing a few steps. This lead me to believe the cane was for show, but there was a moment where Weller is active and needs to stop because he is not using his cane. It's a very small thing, but as an avid watcher of House M.D. and one of the younger people in the audience that night, I know if I was thinking about it, some of the older patrons may be as well.

Ric Frantz should be very proud of his choices of these two actors who fluidly moved through touching, comical, and sometimes terrifying scenes with ease. His casting paid off and the audience reacted, and in one audience members case, overreacted, to every card counting interruption, every "Gin" called out, and even every old age home joke that was knocked out of the park.

This show may not have a great deal of questions and answers to it, but it does tell us a great deal about the author, D. L. Coburn, and what his relationship may be to people in his life. He's written a great elderly couple made all the greater by Moriarty and Sala bringing them to life. The sooner you get to see this production, the sooner you will be happily back home, playing gin, and swearing when you lose.


"The Gin Game" returns, after a week hiatus, to continue its run at The Beckwith Theater, June 29-July 1. Tickets are available via phone reservation at (269) 782-7653. For more information on this and upcoming shows, go to beckwiththeatre.com.

photo credit: The Beckwith Theatre Company

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From This Author Dave Kempher

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