The staging and embellishments are marvelous. The direction is tight and purposeful. The acting is impeccable. Yet when “The Gin Game” was over, I needed a glass of Hendrick’s.
D.L. Coburn’s play about an elderly man and woman relegated to a welfare nursing home could do that to a teetotaler. “The Gin Game” starts with some lighthearted interactions and ends with horrific exchanges.
The set inside the Williamston Theatre depicting the courtyard where Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin meet could have been a plain background with simple trimmings. Instead, Gabriella Csapo’s design—that includes sliding and screen doors—and Michelle Raymond’s props, are full of details and realistic extras. Julia Garlotte’s insect, bird, wind, and thunder noises are also classy additions.
Director John Lepard keeps the encounters fluid and the action building; making the engrossing 85 minute play, plus intermission, zip right along.
The performances by real-life couple Ruth Crawford (Fonsia) and Hugh Maguire (Weller) command attention. An authentic chemistry between the two - and their ability to make their characters fascinating - help make “The Gin Game” riveting. Both performers artfully convey external and internal character emotions.
The play’s dialogue and physical elements gives Crawford and Maguire the opportunity to make the audience laugh, gasp, cringe and maybe cover their ears. Some offensive language, mean-spirited screaming and violent outbursts are uncomfortable to observe.
For me, those were necessary components of a play that never set out to have a happy “Hollywood” ending. The harshness and toxicity of “The Gin Game” bothered me and kept me transfixed. Despite a disappointingly abrupt and vague conclusion, I was glad to experience the play while sober.
"The Gin Game "
8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays
3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays
2 p.m. Sundays
Tickets start at $28 (senior and student discounts available)
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam St., Williamston