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Directors chairs for Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore

Synopsis of the Show

The Gin Game is a two-act, four-scene play about a woman in her twilight years, Fonsia Dorsey, who enters a "home for the aged" and is for a while saved from melancholy by the crusty charm of Weller Martin. The sardonic Weller cajoles Fonsia into playing a series of gin games on the home's sunlit porch. As they seemingly become close companions, much is revealed about their respective regret-filled lives -- to the steady shuffling and playing of cards. Their mutual need for solace is momentarily satisfied, until Weller's pent-up rage, and Fonsia's subtle needling, build to a terrible confrontation.

Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke as Fonsia and Weller

Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke in the PBS production of The Gin Game

The Gin Game was first produced in September of 1976 by American Theatre Arts in a 56-seat theater in Hollywood. It was produced by Don Eitner and directed by Kip Niven. John Terry Bell played Weller Martin, and Carol Locatell played Fonsia Dorsey. A favorable review in Variety brought the play to the attention of The Actors Theatre of Louisville where the play became one of the first offerings in its now famous festival of new plays. It was here that Jon Jory brought the play to the attention of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, who then sent it to Mike Nichols. Remarkably, Mr. Nichols signed on to direct within 24 hours, and the production destined for Broadway was formed.

In July of 1977, the play opened at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, where director Arvin Brown was working as Artistic Director. That was followed by an engagement at the Wilbur Theatre in Boston. On October 6, 1977, less than 13 months after the first performance before perhaps 50 people, The Gin Game opened on Broadway to rave reviews. It starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, and garnered four Tony Award nominations: Best Play, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Director.

The Gin Game ran on Broadway for 516 performances and subsequently toured the nation (with Cronyn and Tandy) to sold-out houses in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and a half dozen other cities before touring in England and Russia. The play has since had productions in virtually every country of the western world, including France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Israel, Hungary, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and South Africa, as well as heralded productions in Australia, Japan and China. In 1978 the play garnered four Tony nominations and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

In 1997, The Gin Game was revived on Broadway, starring Charles Durning and Julie Harris. Once again, the play was a stunning success and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Production of a Revival. The Gin Game has been performed in virtually every theater-going country in the world. Joss Ackland and Dorothy Tutin recently completed 175 critically acclaimed performances throughout England, including an engagement at the Savoy Theatre in London/s West End.


Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy as Weller and Fonsia

Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the Long Wharf Theatre production of The Gin Game
Photo credit: William B. Carter/Long Wharf Theatre.

Dorothy Tutin and Joss Ackland  as Fonsia and Weller

Dame Dorothy Tutin and Joss Ackland in London's Savoy Theatre production of The Gin Game
Photo courtesy of TEG Productions




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