Stars explained: * A production of no real merit with failings in all areas. ** A production showing evidence of not enough time or effort, or even talent, and which never breathes any real life into the piece – or a show lumbered with a terrible script. *** A good enjoyable show which might have some small flaws but has largely achieved what it set out to do.**** An excellent show which shows a great deal of work and stage craft with no noticeable or major flaws.***** A four star show which has found that extra bit of magic which lifts theatre to another plane.
Half stars fall between the ratings

gin game

Colin Townsend as Weller Martin and Hazel Evans as Fonsia Dorsey

The Gin Game

Sutton Arts Theatre


From the title of D L Coburn’s first play, written in 1977, you might be mistaken into thinking it was about that now very fashionable alcoholic beverage and its fabled ruination of mothers.

However The Gin Game is a slow burning contest of cards between two elderly nursing home residents, who are each hiding more secrets than the cards they holding.

It all takes place on the porch of an American retirement home. Retired business man Weller Martin sits there alone playing patience until Fonsia Dorsey wanders out one day and a chance conversation leads to the two of them playing gin rummy.

Fonsia claims to be a novice, so kindly Weller agrees to teach her the game. However the supposed novice goes on to win every hand much to Weller’s increasing frustration. That frustration leads to low level animosity and the seemingly gentle friendship eventually boils over to an exchange of insults, and the revelation of some harsh home truths, that expose both of the player’s personal regrets.

Weller Martin was played by Colin Townsend who gave a fine account of a man trying hard to reconcile his past. Weller once had built and owned a successful business but now remained bitter about his eventual removal from its operation and the financial hole into which a long list of medical bills had dropped him.

He also once had a family he cared for, but after a divorce, their selfishness and disregard for him as a father have now left him alone. Struggling to understand how all of his hard work and love has now left him alone without a single visitor, he becomes increasingly angry at not even now being able to win in a game of gin.

Fonsia Dorsey was played Hazel Evans. Fonsia clearly is somewhat aloof at first to Weller’s invitations but spins a web of white lies about her own financial status and her own son who has also selfishly abandoned her.

To keep face she claims he lives in another city, but the interrogation of Weller reveals he is living locally but just can’t be bothered with her. Weller’s rude insults finally break them both out in an exchange of shocking profanity as their anxieties are released.

The Gin Game is a complex two hander of play with a raft of dialogue and quite an undertaking and Hazel struggled at times with some of the cues on this opening night, but when she was fluent she was very good and overall the pairing made for a very believable partnership.

With a nice timber clad and whitewashed setting designed by John Islip this table top play touches on some very poignant moments about regret and family, that although written in the late seventies still resonates within families today.

Once the opening night nerves are resolved, the intriguing word play of the The Gin Game could just be the tonic you are looking for. To 04-05-19

Jeff Grant


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