James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson Lay Their Cards on the Table
By Eric Grode Oct. 7, 2015
After an early out-of-town preview of his play “The Gin Game” in 1976, one filled with flubbed lines and disconcertingly long silences, D. L. Coburn sat in a hotel room with the director. “It was about 3 or 4 in the morning,” he recalls, “and I said, ‘My God, what are we going to do?’ That’s when I realized that this play is really hard.”
Thousands of performers have come to the same conclusion in the nearly 40 years since that late-night epiphany. “The Gin Game,” which went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, pits two actors of a certain age against each other in a constant series of anxiety- and soul-baring card games. James Earl Jones and star in the current revival, which opens Oct. 14 at the John Golden Theater.
Virtually every shift in power between the two characters, a pair of lonely nursing home residents named Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey, is accompanied — and often triggered — by a shuffle or a deal or an angry grab of the playing cards.