The London Community Players’ production of D L. Coburn’s The Gin Game is a small show with a big story. The play only has two characters, and one setting. However the minimalism allows for a lack of distractions and unnecessary elements, yielding in a production which is both poignant and powerful. Directed by Don Fleckser and produced by Diane Haggerty, The Gin Game tells the story of Weller (Rob Faust) and Fonsia (Irene de Salaiz), two elderly people who have been forced into a nursing home before their time.
Both Weller and Fonsia disassociate themselves from their fellow nursing home captives, and take to playing Gin by themselves on an outdoor porch of the facility. Weller is a seasoned professional, boasting to Fonsia about his prodigious Gin skills and condescendingly telling her the rules of the game. It only takes one hand for Weller to realize his boasting may have been hubris, as he proceeds to lose every hand to Fonsia the first time they play. Weller and Fonsia always meet on visitor’s day, as neither of them have anyone who takes the time to visit them. Fonsia’s son lives in Denver, and Weller is estranged from his children. It does not take long for one to see why this estrangement has occurred, as Weller is shown to be unstable and explosive after losing at Gin. Despite his outbursts, Weller and Fonsia continue to regularly meet for spirited and decidedly one-sided games of Gin.
Gin becomes something for both characters to hold on to. Robbed of youth, family, money, and health, Weller and Fonsia find whatever solace they can in Gin and in their increasingly toxic relationship. Faust shines as Weller, expertly transitions between unctuous and boorish. De Salaiz’s performance is more understated, and her performance counters Faust’s perfectly. What results is a play which is both complicated and pervasive, shedding insight into elderly life which many of us feel we will somehow elude. Weller and Fonsia display that though getting old may be inescapable, at least there will always be a deck of cards.
The Gin Game will be playing at the Palace Theatre from October 14 to October 17. For more information, click here.