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Gin Game HomeInterviewsAbout the ShowRemembering...How to Play GinGlossary

The Director
Underlying Themes
The Writing
The Actors
From Stage to Screen
Playwright D.L. Coburn
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Key Scene Study
Director Arvin Brown viewing playback monitors

Underlying Themes

The enduring quality of the play comes from its perceptions about male/female relationships.

One of the most profound statements of The Gin Game is that we carry baggage with us through life that we never lose, even when we're old people.

The play shows a lonely man and a lonely woman who share the same sense of hopelessness coming together, and there seems to be room for a relationship that could comfort them in their last years.

The Gin Game shows how sad it is to feel that sometimes we are our own worst enemies, and that the mistakes we make early in life become ingrained in us, and we can't easily escape them.
 

Arvin Brown
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Arvin Brown on directing The Gin Game.

 
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The Battle of the Sexes 


Each of the characters has had lifelong problems with the opposite sex. Since those problems are still there, their relationship can't be easy, and the gin game becomes a metaphor for the increasing complexity of what's going on between this elderly couple.

The play reflects an age-old power struggle between men and women. Here we're dealing with two people who come from very specific histories and very specific involvements with men and women. And yes, they do battle on a kind of classic sex- against-sex level. But that's because of their life histories.
 


Old Age 


The Gin Game is about the psychological and experiential aspects of old age. The woman has diabetes, the man has heart trouble, but their principal problem is not their physical well-being. They've brought their loneliness on themselves.

They suffer from a fate that we all experience to one degree or another: a kind of isolation, a detachment from family, which has as much to do with their own inner problems as it does with the realities of their families.
 


Two Angry Characters 


Fonsia and Weller are two characters with great energy and vitality, and they seek each other out. I definitely think there is a sexual component to their relationship, for good and for bad. And we've pointed that up in our production.

Although he'll never acknowledge it, Weller sees himself as a loser in life. Nothing has worked out the way he imagined. He touched on success and it was yanked away from him. As he is challenged by Fonsia's character later in the play, he sees himself as a victim. Therefore, the game becomes the all-important opportunity to win at something in his life.

Fonsia keeps coming back to that card game, where she gets yelled at and treated fairly badly by Weller, because she needs it as much as he does. What brings them together are the same things that drive them apart: The energy, the repressed anger, the sense that neither trusts the opposite sex. For all of Fonsia's well-bred, lady-like demeanor, her emotions are very close to the surface. So are Weller's. These people are hurting, and as they get deeper into a relationship, they don't try to hide their anger or pain.

Fonsia's anger is equal to Weller's, but her anger is much more successfully hidden. Fonsia seems to represent many women of her era, who were brought up to believe that they would function as wives and mothers in a certain fashion. They were unprepared for the betrayals that hit them in life.

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