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Gin Game a stacked success
|The Gin Game
Starring: Grant Reddick, Joyce Campion
Directed By: Susan Ferley
Four stars (out of five)
By Ben Freedman
It's ironic that the setting for the play The Gin Game is a nursing home described by the lead character as "a warehouse for the intellectually and emotionally dead," as this play offers both clever dialogue and touching self-exploration.
This high calibre play is theatre in its purest form the audience is psychologically intertwined with the actors and the line between what is real and what is fiction becomes blurred.
Specifically, The Gin Game relies on quality acting to make a script with a broad range of emotion and requisite comic timing come to life.
The play begins when Weller Martin (Grant Reddick) asks Fonsia Dorsey (Joyce Campion) to play gin rummy as a way to get to know each other while lounging on the balcony of The Bentley Home for Seniors the set for the entire play's action.
With each passing game, a new layer is torn from Weller and Fonsia's hard exteriors. Fonsia, for example, is a survivor of her middle-class existence divorce and failure have created a vulnerable and sensitive woman with Christian morality and confident opinions.
The game of gin provides the central metaphor for life and existence. Fonsia emphasizes the importance of fortune and makes clear that she cannot help the cards she is dealt, even though she keeps winning.
Meanwhile, Weller points out the importance of skill. With the exception of a single game, which he complains Fonsia let him win, he consistently loses. The issue is never resolved, but it does draw a variety of emotions from each character.
Susan Ferley's direction brilliantly emphasizes the dialogue while reducing distractions. The backdrop is a thin vertical screen, reflecting the sky, surrounded by darkness. There are subtle changes according to the tone, reflected in the colour of the sky.
This is the only organic part of the set; the rest is a minimal, dull brown. The balcony is diamond shaped with the card table at its centre.
The Gin Game is a play that requires two consummate actors and Reddick and Campion fit the bill. Reddick is convincing from start to finish, effectively drawing the audience alongside his psyche. It is a treat to explore the inner-workings of his character, a luxury only afforded by a strong performance.
Campion's performance is not quite as good, but that could be a result of her character's complexity.
Act One seemed like an exercise in self-discovery for both actor and character. As she drives for sympathy, she only becomes obnoxious.
As if on cue, at the end of the first act, she hits her mark and, by the second act, she has preserved Fonsia's appeal and discarded the parts of her performance that made her annoying.
Campion capitalizes on her delicate, high-pitched voice to create a character simultaneously vulnerable, oblivious and real.
The play's main weakness stems entirely from its humour, which seems to be directed at an audience of middle-aged Caucasians. Still, Reddick is able to save many of the jokes with perfect timing. The result is simple: the humour lies not in what is being said, but how it is said.
The Gin Game uncovers many of life's most terrifying truths and vindicates them with wit and honesty. It is a treat to identify with the elderly characters and develop a perspective otherwise untapped.
The Gin Game plays at The Grand Theatre now until Nov. 11.