Compass Rose Theater’s production of The Gin Game is a fun look at a tempestuous, surprising friendship. D.L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize–winning play, about two older residents of a senior living facility who play gin together, is a curious mixture of comedy and serious reflection. Directed by Rick Wade, it makes for engaged watching.
David Elias plays Weller Martin with an edge. Slightly cynical, he makes jokes about the facility’s staff, the other residents, and the other activities. He has a moment of introspection when describing a sudden feeling of “unreality” that comes over him. He tries to make light of his short temper, laughing off others’ concerns, but it erupts in a slew of curse words and violent actions that at times genuinely shock.
Janet Luby plays Fonsia Dorsey with a kindness concealing great strength. Appearing onstage sniffling, she offers more generous interpretations of Weller’s cynical observations. Playing gin with him, she sheepishly reveals her luck with the cards. She jumps up in fear at Weller’s outbursts, even slapping him at one point. By the end, she curses in frustration, giving personal jabs at Weller as he does with her.
Set Designer Omar Said has created a whole outdoor porch onstage, bounded by a screen door on one side and French doors on the other. Rocking chairs are in one corner, while a pile of chairs is stacked in another, next to a bookcase filled with various items. A card table and a chair take up the center.
Costume Designer Susan Flynn has chosen simple outfits. Weller begins in a bathrobe, then changes to a tan suit, before ending in a long green shirt. Fonsia begins in grey pants before switching to a blue top and black and white skirt ending with a denim skirt. She sometimes wears a purple shawl.
Lighting Designer Emily Palmerchuck reflects the changing atmosphere. During a night scene, the lights are dimmed. A spotlight shines on Weller for a poignant speech. The lights flicker in a thunderstorm, with flashes of lightning. Sound Designer Craig Martien enhances the realistic feel with ads from a radio in the beginning, sounds of music from offstage, thunder, and emergency vehicle sounds off in the distance.
Rick Wade does a great job as director. Luby and Elias work well together, hitting every comic note perfectly, as well as the serious moments. It results in many laughs and a few exclamations from the audience.
Running Time: One hour and 40 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
The Gin Game plays through February 18, 2024, presented by Compass Rose Theater performing at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (third floor), 801 Chase Street, Annapolis, MD. Purchase tickets ($25–$55) online or call 410-980-6662.