River City Repertory Theatre has come up aces with “The Gin Game” that opened Wednesday at East Bank Theatre in Bossier City.
The professional theater company closed last season with a resounding hit in “Venus in Fur” and now opens its 2014-2015 season with a production that should easily turn itself into a hit.
Written by D.L. Coburn, “The Gin Game” is a two-character play about a couple of elderly people at a nursing home that turn a simple card game, not only into a battle of wits, but also into a more serious game of one-upmanship.
There are great dollops of humor along the way but that is undercut by moments of poignancy and forced out revelations that continually alters each players perception of the other.
Weller Martin is an irascible, bitter man who seems to be friendless at the home and spends his time out on the porch playing – and cheating – at solitaire. Fonsia Dorsey is a new arrival, insecure, a bit bewildered at her circumstances and also friendless.
After falling into a halting conversation, Weller coerces Fonsia into a game of gin rummy, figuring he’s found an easy mark. He briefly explains the game and greedily deals out the cards. Luck is with Fonsia. She wins … and wins and wins. As time passes, Weller, angry and frustrated, is determined to win a game.
Along the way, both discover they actually enjoy keeping company because they have slowly revealed things about their lives in card table conversation.
Fonsia’s continuing to win, though, leads to Weller’s obsession to beat her as his anger becomes a bit unmanageable and their relationship takes on a different tone. The card game has become a life game as each tries to expose the hidden truths about the other.
Former Academy Award nominee Margaret Avery makes a triumphant return to RCRT after having appeared with the company in “The Member of the Wedding” in its second season.
The actress, who earned her Oscar nomination as supporting actress in “The Color Purple,” nicely layers the character. Her Fonsia is at first hesitant and low keyed, seeming no match for the loud, often profane Weller. But the delicate looking Avery quietly begins insinuating some steel into the genteel Fonsia. As the play progresses, Fonsia becomes more than a match for Weller. Avery’s wonderfully controlled performance suddenly surprises as it blossoms, and a confident Fonsia emerges. Good work.
Richard Folmer has turned himself into one of RCRT’s most valuable assets with a string of first-rate performances in “The Subject Was Roses,” “Bus Stop” and “The Night of the Iguana.” Add to that his bravura turn as Weller.
The actor tears through a gamut of emotions that range from quiet moments of sudden poignancy to desperate determination to uncontrolled rage. Folmer drives through it all with a sure hand on the wheel.
Best of all, director Patric McWilliams has cast two actors who play the give-and-take game very well together. He never really lets the laughter trump the more serious leanings of the play and vice versa. It’s called balance, and that is what this “Gin Game” admirably has. Even as the play shifts gears, and sometimes quickly, it flows.
Jim Hayes provides another atmospherically appealing set, this time of the porch area of a nursing home that has seen better days. Everything is a bit worn and tacky, from an old porch swing to the card table to mismatched chairs to a crummy looking book case stuffed with many forgotten items. Marissa Brown’s lighting does well in giving the production a muted look, and Mike Martindale again has offered some good sound effects.
RCRT seems to have dealt a winning hand.
Membership in THE LEAGUE is being offered to individuals and couples interested in supporting the theatre company. The mission of The League is to provide support for the theatre and develop a core of volunteers to assist in projects and fundraising events essential for the company’s future.
Membership is open to the general public. Annual membership opportunities:
FAN COUPLE $40.00
STAR SINGLE $125.00
STAR COUPLE $200.00
1 STAR/ 1 FAN $150.00
Interested? Join or send a donation (tax deductible) to:
P.O. BOX 5391
SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA 71135
Please contact Carol LaBorde at 318-797-6615
for additional information.
The Shreveport Regional Arts Council recently announced that River City Repertory Theatre, along with 12 other regional arts organizations, will be receiving funding from a federal stimulus package through the National Endowment for the Arts for the restoration and preservation of jobs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
This program is part of President Obama's effort to stimulate the economy and preserve jobs. Funds from this grant will allow jobs and salaries to be maintained which may have been lost due to the recent economic downturn. This is the first NEA grant that has been awarded to River City Rep.
River City Repertory Theatre is financially supported by The Community Foundation of Shreveport/ Bossier-Carolyn W. & Charles T. Beaird Donor Advised Fund. The funding provides support for the theatre's purchasing of technical equipment.
As River City Rep moves toward having a permanent
home in downtown Shreveport, the theatre company is actively pursuing purchasing the technical equipment the company will need for future productions in its new space.
River City Repertory Theatre is the recipient of two Louisiana Division of the Arts/Decentralized Arts Funding grants for the 2009-10 theatre season. The funds from the LDOA/DAF grants were used to produce MOONLIGHT AND MAGNOLIAS which was a participant in the EYE-20 CREATIVE CORRIDOR’s “ TRIUMPH OVER TRAGEDY” project and will be additionally used throughout the season to financially assist artistic salaries and benefits.
Louisiana Division of the Arts/Decentralized Arts Funding grants provide operating funds for non-profit arts organizations that are seeking to expand operations and also to produce specific projects. The state grants provide support to arts organizations that have made an impact locally, statewide, regionally and nationally or internationally.