Monday, July 26, 2010

Palm Beach DramaWorks; The Gin Game (6 Reviews)

The Palm Beach DramaWorks production of D. L. Coburn's The Gin Game opened on July 16, 2010.
In this Pulitzer Prize winning comic-drama, Weller and Fonsia play gin rummy on the porch of a seedy nursing home. They share intimate details of their lives, which eventually become weapons used against each other. Psychological warfare ensues, and this relentless gin game becomes a metaphor for life.
J. Barry Lewis directed a cast that featured Barbara Bradshaw and Peter Haig.  Frequent acting partners in the 1980's, this marks the first time the pair have performed together in 20 years.

The Sun-Sentinel has declined to review this production.*

Brandon K. Thorp nearly slips a review through for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times; as usual, the New Times has published a review that lacks the actual workings of a review; no mention of the production's success or lack thereof, no mention of the directors or designers, and through paragraphs about the characters in the play, we find snippets about the actors:
On Haig's face — one of the busiest mugs in the business — can be read a well-learned mistrust of intimate engagement with his fellow human beings, one that is at war with the gentility taught to all American boys of his character's generation.
Bradshaw plays Fonsia as cool bordering on bloodless, the set of her jaw and cast of her eyes as tense and precise as a piano wire... Bradshaw's subtlest performance in years...
The rest of the review seems to have been edited out, leaving only character and plot summaries.  How sad.

Hap Erstein reviewed for the Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
... J.‭ ‬Barry Lewis,‭ ‬the company’s chief director,‭ ‬seemed to have cast the play well with Peter Haig and Barbara Bradshaw...‭ ‬Individually,‭ ‬they are fine,‭ ‬but the play is a fragile duet and even after a week’s delay of the press opening,‭ ‬they seemed to be occupying completely different plays.
‬...Haig takes a broad approach,‭ ‬pumping his foot like a sewing machine pedal to the rhythm of his dealing,‭ ‬barking out the cards by number,‭ ‬erupting with foul-mouthed anger with each defeat.‭ ‬Bradshaw underplays straitlaced Fonsia Dorsey,‭ ‬subtly suggesting her thoughts through facial expressions...
Both performances are right for the characters,‭ ‬who are vastly different,‭ ‬but for the rhythms of the dialogue to work,‭ ‬the actors need to mesh better.
Jan Sjostrom reviewed for the Palm Beach Daily News:
The play rides on the skills of Barbara Bradshaw and Peter Haig to fix attention on a duel that unfolds in serial games of cards.

It’s a demanding assignment... Bradshaw and Haig are equal to the challenge, helped by J. Barry Lewis’ sure-footed direction.
Bradshaw’s transformation is particularly chilling. The gentle Fonsia becomes almost feral. The well-chosen details of Bradshaw’s portrayal... make it apparent that Fonsia is more than a match for Weller, despite his brutally insightful attacks.
Haig’s Weller, who is irascible from the start, travels a lesser distance. But his dry delivery of the play’s wittier passages ensures that the play’s dark and light sides stay in balance.
As usual, Michael Amico’s set design establishes the perfect environment...
Irv Rikon (long time Palm Beach County journalist) reviewed for the Century Village Data Sink; should watch see this play if only to see the two stars, Barbara Bradshaw and Peter Haig, at work. They are better than Hume and Jessica, Charles and Julie and others I've seen in these roles. All were good and praiseworthy. But this pair is the best.
 I should say a few words about J. Barry Lewis, who directed. Flawless directing. Mr. Lewis likewise belongs among that special group of people who do things just right virtually every time.

Marilyn Bauer reviewed for  TC Palm:
Haig has honed his performance as an old coot consumed with a rage simmering just below the surface. He moves effortlessly between moments of pure charm to irascibility to an aggression born of disappointment and neglect.

Bradshaw’s Fonsia is a whelping mass of vindictiveness, a passive-aggessive Xena, Warrior Queen meting out punishment on the men who have done her wrong. Bradshaw is adept in physically portraying the many sides of this broken women, not an easy task since Fonsia’s core is concealed behind a facade of respectability.
Director, J. Barry Lewis has staged the tight action beneath a single hanging lamp with the space around the card table a destination of its own.
It is a little gem of theater, well-acted and provocative.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
D.L. Coburn’s warhorse may be a comedy in its early stages, but its protagonists, played by Barbara Bradshaw and Peter Haig, are nobody’s cutesy codgers. Under J. Barry Lewis’ direction, these are life-scarred veterans whose obsessions and secrets nudge the play toward the darkness in spite of the laughs.
Palm Beach Dramaworks’ production is merely entertaining company during most of the first act and could benefit from a little more topspin. You sense there are unplumbed nuances. If not for the skill of Bradshaw, Haig and Lewis in creating a grounded reality, the proceedings would feel like a diverting cartoon. But when they have some genuine drama to chew on in the second act, the play catches fire.
Fonsia gives Bradshaw another showcase for her talent for comic roles with an underlying pathos, recently on display in Why Torture Is Wrong and Dead Man’s Cellphone at Mosaic Theatre and The Chairs at Dramaworks.
Haig’s harried expression and a voice that is inexplicably reedy and deep at the same time have elevated dozens of local productions. Here, he credibly runs the gamut from goofily endearing, with a toothy grin, to unleashing a destructive tantrum that blisters the already blistering paint on the porch.
Dramaworks once again benefits from a stable of outstanding designers with an attention to detail. Brian O’Keefe’s costumes are perfectly chosen....Michael Amico’s decaying porch setting is an appropriately dingy environment for the neglected denizens, down to the battered metal glider and rickety card table. He excels in tiny telling touches of set dressing...
The Gin Game plays at Palm Beach DramaWorks through August 15, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. The critics are are nit-pickers...I saw this at a matinee and we all loved it.

    The performances and direction are top-notch. You will be entertained for the entire time.

    Still relevant, dialogue still will see two of the finest actors in South Florida having a field day with very different characters.

    This production is very entertaining and PB Dramaworks should be very proud.