Card game serves as 'metaphor for life' in Oak Grove
"The Gin Game" won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1978 and has run successfully on Broadway several times. Now the two-character play is coming to Oak Grove on July 13, presented by New Century Players in the Rose Villa Performing Arts Center.
"The Gin Game" opens with Weller Martin, a resident of a seedy nursing home, playing solitaire. Then, Fonsia Dorsey, a prim, self-righteous lady, encounters him and they discover they both dislike the home and enjoy gin rummy. They begin to play cards, and end up revealing intimate details of their lives.
Julie Akers has directed "The Gin Game" before, and said she chose to do so again because "it is one of those plays that hits you in the gut at its ending."
She added, "It teaches the watcher profound lessons about how past behaviors will come to haunt you if you don't change your ways in life."
The overall message of the play is to "spend your life loving, giving and making deep relationships. To work through jealousy, the need to win, the control of others," Akers said.
The play "rewards as you rehearse it. It is full of life lessons which you get reminded of as you go. This play won the Pulitzer Prize for a reason."
Akers said the biggest challenge for her with this production has been casting, but the actors also face hardships.
"The play demands actors play many games of gin, and they have to remember their lines as well as remember the many variations on the card games they must play," she said.
Pia Shepherd plays the role of Fonsia and Ron Palmblad plays Weller in the NCP production.
"Fonsia is feisty, opinionated and, I think, also sympathetic to the other residents of the home," Shepherd said, adding that she appreciates her character's ability to play gin.
It has been difficult playing such a complicated character and trying to love her, she said, noting that playing cards and synchronizing the card moves with the dialogue has been challenging.
"The play runs such a gamut of emotions. It's been great to share the stage with a very giving and generous actor, and to work with such a fine director," Shepherd said.
She added that audiences will see "a bit of themselves in this play, where a card game becomes a metaphor for life."
As for Weller, Palmblad described his character as "a grumpy old man who longs to share his interest in card playing with someone, but his temper has a tendency to get in the way."
However, Weller's anger is mitigated by his sense of humor and emotional depth.
Learning all the dialogue while constantly playing cards has been a challenge for Palmblad, too.
"This is the first time I've done a show with only one other actor, where we two are the only ones on stage, the entire show," he said.
Working with Shepherd and Akers has been rewarding for Palmblad, adding that audiences will like the "emotional rollercoaster" that is at the heart of the play.
He added, "As these elderly characters get to know each other over several gin games, they are pressed to look at some dark sides of their personalities and see things neither of them were willing to admit, even to themselves."
What: New Century Players Community Theatre presents "The Gin Game," by D.L. Coburn
When: 7:30 p.m. July 13, 19, 20, 26 and 27, and 2 p.m. July 14, 21 and 28
Where: Venue: Rose Villa Performing Arts Center, 13505 S.E. River Road, Oak Grove
Tickets: Adults, $20; seniors, $15; and students, $10
More: Visit newcenturyplayers.org or call 503-367-2620 for details and to purchase tickets.
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