The Gin Game Presented By The Visalia Community Players

Oct 2, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Irene Morse, Theatre

by Irene Morse

Special KRL coupon code at the end of this article.

The Visalia Community Players have re-made the lobby of the historic Ice House Theater into a sunlit porch at an assisted living facility. Local theater goers are invited to come down, sit on the brand new and very comfortable lobby-show chairs, and watch Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey as they play a few hands of gin and get to know one another.

Best known for the 1977 production starring Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, The Gin Game is one of the most frequently produced classic works in American theatre.

Director, Peg Collins, states that, “I’ve always been drawn to scripts that tell a great story about the human condition.” Often tagged as a “Tragi-Comedy,” the play does examine the humanity—with all of its humor and flaws—of two elderly people who happen to have been thrown together in disagreeable circumstances.

Nancy Holley and Donny Graham - "The Gin Game"

The play opened in previews in 1976 in a 56-seat theater in Hollywood which, by comparison, makes the 70 seats in the Ice House lobby seem generous. Director Collins believes that the intimacy of the lobby is a great venue for telling the story. After working in rehearsal with the “wonderfully talented actors, Donny Graham and Nancy Holley,” she says she is very pleased with that choice.

For her part, Nancy Holley saw a revival of the play on Broadway in 1997 and “fell in love with it … I just loved it.” Holley feels that the story is an honest portrayal of the lives of these people; “It is true to life.” Whether in the 1970s or the current day, these people exist in these places and are entwined in complex relationships that know no time period.

The author of the play, D. L. Coburn, reports that during the writing of the play, he came to realize that a card game could be “a metaphor for fate and how the events of life are dealt to us.” He further states that some actors have struggled with learning to play a game of cards while trying to remember lines and blocking. For Holley, however, many years of chatting away at party bridge have perfectly prepared her for this added distraction.

Donny Graham has never seen the stage play but remembers the PBS production with Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke in 2003. That production, according to Graham, had too many unnecessary elements in it; he much prefers the way the play is written with only the two characters in all of their complexity.

The play offers more back-story for Fonsia than for Weller and Graham feels it would be easy to play the role as merely a one-dimensional, contentious old man. “It’s easy to forget the good in Weller,” reports Graham. He feels the structure of the play offers that insight to an actor who looks for it.

Local theatre goers will remember that Holley and Graham teamed up in the play, Dancers, at the Ice House in January of 2008. They are delighted to be working together again and both report that they are comfortable and confident being on stage with each other helping to bring these intricate characters to life.

The play contains adult language. Those involved with this production would like to remind the audience that these harsh words are being spoken by two old people who are filled with dread and longing and fear and are appropriate in that context.

The Players would also like to have mentioned, again, that beautiful, fully cushioned new chairs have been purchased for lobby shows. There are only 70 of them, however, so make your reservations early for this outstanding production.

The Gin Game
opens at the Ice House Theater at Race and Santa Fe in Visalia at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 4, 2013 and runs for three weekends with evening performances at 7:30 p.m. on 10/4, 10/5, 10/11, 10/12, 10/18, and 10/19 and matinees at 2:00 p.m. on 10/6, 10/13, and 10/20.

For more information about the Visalia Community Players and to purchase tickets, check out their website and KRL’s article about VCP. Tickets may also be purchased by calling 734-3900. For details about local arts groups in Tulare County, visit the Visalia Arts Consortium website.

Check out more local theatre reviews this week right here in KRL & even more theatre reviews & articles in our Arts & Entertainment section!

To purchase two tickets for the price of one, enter KRLTGG in the Have a code? box on the Buy/Redeem Tickets Reservation page via the Players website Ticketing information page.

Irene Morse is a freelance writer. When not hanging out with her husband, Gary, and their large family, she enjoys traveling in search of adventure and examining the human condition through drama and community theatre. Read her family’s Christmas story in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Christmas Magic, 2010. Her column on theatre appears regularly in the local newspaper. Email her at irene [at]


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