Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Gin Game @ MetroStage in Alexandria, VA

Today's theatrical experience was very unique. I went to a company called MetroStage in Alexandria, Virginia. Their performances have been recognized by the local Tony's (the Helen Hayes Awards) and so they were on my list. They're an extremely small company and only mount 3 or 4 productions a season. I used my GPS to locate them in this odd prefab building on the waterfront of the Potomac River just south of Reagan National Airport. They share the lot with another prefab building that houses ABACA pottery and patio furniture. The production I came to see was "The Gin Game".

The Gin Game is one of those classic American plays that even if you haven't seen it, you surely think you know something about it--or at least I did. In my mind, which loves to find patterns and build schema for information, I have these three zones of American plays: There is the Classic Zone that goes from the 1930's through the 50's, the Middle Zone that covers the 60's, 70's & 80's, and modern era from the 90's forward. The Gin Game is a staple of the middle zone. And I know that it won a Pulitzer Prize with Hume Cronyn and Jassica Tandy in 1978 and was most recently revived on Broadway with James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson in 2016. Beyond that I assumed that the couple plays Gin (versus drinks it!). Of this last consideration, I was not disappointed.

So it's an important play being staged by a tiny, but acclaimed theatrical company. What to expect? I came with none.

What did I get? The place is the most unlikely venue for a semi-professional theater company that I have been to. The theater space is the very definition of intimate. Maybe 80 seats total...and I counted 36 in the audience. The set was beautiful and the pre-performance music (if a bit too loud) was smooth jazz and pleasant on the ears. And then the play began.

The two actors have been longtime members of the DC theater community judging by their resumes. Over a decade ago, they performed opposite one another for a second season production at MetroStage, and this play was hand picked to bring them back together again. The show is intense and requires a lot of chemistry between the two actors.

Doug Brown played the role of Weller Martin. He did so with a clear notion of what he wanted the character to be. He was direct and stylized a consistent persona for Weller. I wish it had not been so often on "high". He played the age aspect of his character from the hips--he centered the physicality from there. A good choice given the cane and it's use as a prop.

Roz White played the role of his obnoxiously successful Gin partner, Fonsia Dorsey. Her choices were more passive. She waited for lines and moments to come to her with mixed success. Her understanding of being elderly (portraying a woman of 71) was disappointing. She seemed to be spending her talent on channeling "Mama" from the Carol Burnett Show rather than limiting her body to a more nuanced range of motions.

In the end both actors gave us the lines and we got the gist the story and its meaning. But was it worth $64.00 bucks? Not really.
My view of the stage from my 5th row seat in a space with 6 rows.

Doug Brown as Weller Martin and Roz White as Fonsia Dorsey playing Gin

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