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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

The Actors

Dick and Mary are ideal for this piece because there is undeniably a chemistry between them that is remarkable and profound. Even though they haven't been married for 40 years like Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy were, they've been working together and have been friends for 40 years. They bring a kind of trust to their work that is imperative in a piece like this, where the actors run the gamut from comedy into strong, exposed dramatic work.

Dick and Mary are two of the most skilled comedians in the history of television, and two of the finest actors. That's a rare combination. Their great skill as comic actors gives them an extraordinary understanding of where the humor is in the play. Each has a distinct antic personality. There's a devilish girl in Mary. There's an impish guy in Dick -- who works beautifully with the lighter competitive aspects of the play.

The darker aspects of the character are perhaps more immediately available to Mary. She doesn't shy away from them at all. Whereas with Dick, I think, because he's such a song-and-dance man, I don't think he readily likes to go to those places. But as he's a great actor, he's more than capable of doing it. They're both tremendously inventive and directable. They were both totally open to suggestions and were able to turn on a dime.

Their working methods are similar, but Dick is more able to jump from his light, kidding-around persona into the play's seriousness. Mary wants a little bit of a buffer zone between clowning around on the set and the moment when she has to face the camera and do something that's fairly deep.

The atmosphere on any set is conditioned by the behavior of the stars, and when there's Dick's life force, and Mary's vitality, it colors everyone's moods. It was a joyous experience to work with them and feel a part of their very active present and share memories of their past.

Arvin Brown, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke on the Gin Game set.
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Arvin Brown talks about working with Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke.

Acting Challenges 

There are seventeen hands of gin in the play, and four completed games. Each hand is subtly different. The rhythms of the hands have been beautifully choreographed to what is going on between the characters on an emotional level.

The most difficult aspect of the production for Dick and Mary involved learning the card games. The emotional and comic life of The Gin Game was theirs from the beginning. But relating these to the intricacies of the games -- as when you discard, where you pick up -- was just deadly. And they only had two weeks to rehearse. To master this amount of material in that amount of time, it's a remarkable feat.

We shot maybe ten pages a day, which is a heavyweight amount of material. We had to shoot short days, because literally by 6:00 or 7:00, Dick and Mary were burned out from the concentration required to perform The Gin Game.

I found both Dick and Mary to be extraordinarily honest. Neither one of them shies away from discussing age, from getting older, from discussing aches and pains that life brings. They certainly don't shy away from it in terms of their performances. Viewers will see that Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore are playing two very deep, distinct and profound characters.

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Director Arvin Brown



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