Monday, November 2, 2015

Broadway Review: The Gin Game with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson

A Peek at the Deal Life Holds for Us in its Deck of Cards
By Lauren Yarger
It’s just a friendly game of gin rummy. Or is it?

Two residents at a senior home play an innocent Gin Game, but as they reflect on their lives and try to see whether they can support each other in friendship, the real cards being dealt become harder to hold close to the vest in D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning play getting a Broadway revival directed by Leonard Foglia.

Weller Martin (James Earl Jones) is not excited to be a resident of a seedy home for the aged (he had wanted to go to a private nursing home) and is happy to find a possible gin rummy partner in Fonsia Dorsey (Cicely Tyson), who also never seems to get any visitors.

Soon Weller is frustrated as Fonsia somehow manages to win every hand, sometimes right after the deal (a duty which Weller keeps as his own, refusing to share dealing with Fonsia as he makes a meticulous, and humorous counting of each card with every deal). Is it beginner’s luck, a divine gift?
At first, he is amused, but eventually, Weller comes to see his constant losing as a metaphor for the bad hand God has dealt him in life. His violent temper is unleashed and the gin game turns into a contest between the two for domination and respect.

Elements of their lives (and its hard knocks – pun intended) are exposed and laid vulnerable as they meet for game after game on the nursing home porch set designed by Riccardo Hernandez, who also does the costumes. David Van Tieghem’s sound design gives us a glimpse of the happy gatherings taking place inside the home, but in which Fonsia and Weller don’t take part, dismissing them as somehow beneath their notice. Failures, disappointments, insecurities and questioning the place of God in their existence are explored and veer the play into the somewhat depressing discarded pile of life.

Jones and Tyson are engaging and have good stage rapport (though some of Foglia’s blocking seems unfocused). The actors follow nicely on the heels of Hume Cronin and Jessica Tandy, who starred in the original Broadway production in 1977 (also at the John Golden Theatre where this current revival plays) and Charles Durning and Julie Harris in the 1997 revival.

The Gin Game deals up some good acting through Jan. 10 at the Golden, 252 West 45th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday at 2 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm (check for schedule and casting changes). Tickets:  $75 - $141: (800) 432-7250;

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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