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The Director
Playwright D.L. Coburn
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Playing Fonsia
Themes and Conflicts
The Shoot
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Mary Tyler Moore

Playing Fonsia

The characters are so beautifully drawn. They are complete characters, true to themselves. There's not one moment in this play where I say to myself, as an actress, I wish this moment would pass. Such moments do exist in most everything you do. I don't understand this or... Not so in The Gin Game. Every moment may be challenging, may be scary, but it's enjoyable.

Fonsia is a woman who is thoroughly depressed, clinically depressed. She wanted everything to be perfect and she imposed unreachable goals on her husband and on her son and much of her family. And, as a result -- when she reaches this age, she's supposed to be 71 and she's in a retirement home -- she has no one left in her life. Nobody comes to visit her.

There was a lot that appealed to me about Fonsia. I love strong women and they can be misguided, they can be self-serving or they can be rigid, and this woman is rigid.

But she meets Weller Martin and there's a ray of hope. This man has a sense of humor and he makes her laugh and makes her forget how little she has left and for how few days she has it. And it's heartbreaking to watch them both have the potential to enrich themselves and lose it.

The big surprise that I loved about Fonsia was that she appeared to be in the beginning very much a victim -- a victim of a family that was no longer paying attention to her. She was at an old-age home where she didn't have any real options in life. And she seemed to be very frail, very fragile. And it evolves, through her seeing his manipulation of her in these gin games, which my character keeps winning. A resentment builds, and through that resentment a lot of her anger and hostility that she tried to keep quiet during the early part of her life came out, and gripped him by the throat in her very angry hands.

You see the potential of a couple who certainly had some attraction to each other, who could have been good for each other, could've had a life together or nearby, and see it dissipate. Not only dissipate but be beaten to death. So it's a very sad piece, but it is also inspirational, I think, in that you can as a viewer watching this see how easy it is to let go of something that could be good, to let your own determination and habit and ways of living that are self-serving get in the way of something good.

In every character one plays, there are connections to one's own experience. They're either personally held or observed. Lived with a mother, an aunt, a whoever has been in your life and you can absorb so much of the nuance of that person that you then can play the character full out.
 

Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tylor More Interview
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Mary Tyler Moore & Dick Van Dyke talk about The Gin Game, Part 2
 
View Part 1 of the interview in the Dick Van Dyke section.
 
 
Fonsia in her room at retirement home

Fonsia in her room at the retirement home

 
Fonsia and Weller playing cards

Weller teaches Fonsia how to play gin.
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