Last night’s opening of The Gin Game at Wayside Theatre was very successful. Once again the audience followed the journey through the story and with actors James Laster and Faith Potts, who did amazing work. The surprises along the way surprised, and after the show you can tell that everyone recognizes something about their life in the show. The character of Weller Martin in the show is a garrulous, cranky, old geezer and the number of women who have said that he reminds them of their husbands is really amazing. When Weller begins to unmask Fonsia’s character in the play by saying “You know what’s wrong with most of the people in the world today? They have a mother just like you,” the play turns on a dime and the shock that moment brings is palpable and chilling in only the way live theatre can be.
The Gin Game is a classic, and many of our audiences have seen it before in other incarnations in other venues. The famous Hume Cronyn/Jessica Tandy tandem, the Dick Van Dyke/Mary Tyler Moore version, and the Charles Durning/Julie Harris pairing have all been talked about by audience members this weekend. This is one of those plays that you remember, but not completely as the ending takes you to a place you are not expecting, and listening to folks relive that surprise has been a big discovery for me. The comment that stands out from several audience members is that they never really fully grasped the meaning of the play until this production. We’ll take that as the compliment intended, although I think it has more to do with the immediacy of the moment rather than any new clarity we’ve brought to this well written piece of theatre.
It is going to be more than an interesting month long run, that’s for sure. Our audiences are in for a treat and a real emotional ride. People want to talk about what they are seeing or have just seen when they exit the theatre at intermission and after the show. The play provokes a need to share your thoughts and feelings and as I thank audience members for leaving the theatre, it is a bit overwhelming to hear their reactions, thoughts and feelings that they play has surfaced within them.
If you’re interested there are more pictures of the show by our excellent theatre photographer John Westervelt, at this Flickr link, or on the Wayside Theatre Fan Page on Facebook. Stop by and join us there, and of course, stop by Wayside Theatre and see the play.