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The Director
Playwright D.L. Coburn
Crafting a classic
The Characters
A Global Gin Game
Dick Van Dyke
Mary Tyler Moore
Key Scene Study

The Characters

Weller Martin 

Weller is a man who's been successful in business. He has had his moments in life where he triumphed. He has a fierce spirit, a strong will. Then he fell ill, had a heart attack, and his business failed. He lost his wealth. He lost control over his life and ultimately he was sent to a state nursing home. When the control you have over your life drops to that level, then whatever rage you may have felt is certainly going to emerge.

'Sarcasm' is the word I would use to describe Weller. Hume Cronyn described him as 'snarky.' But yes, there's an edge to Weller, a definite edge. A sharp, sarcastic, cutting nature.

Weller blasphemes, but he's profoundly a man of faith. He begins a struggle with God which starts in that hint of madness and playfulness where he's talking about the man on his shoulder. From that point on, we're really dealing with a double conflict. There's his conflict with Fonsia and his conflict with life itself, which becomes Weller's conflict with God: he wants his will done.

Weller wills himself to win a game. Of course, we can't will an event. We can be strong-willed and we can direct the course of our life, but we're not the authors of our lives. There is a bitterness that overtakes Weller, and he becomes defeated by life.

Fonsia Dorsey 

Fonsia has had to conceal a lot of her true nature. I don't know whether it was even a conscious decision. I think she is sincerely pious. But she's drawn into conflict with men. The bitterness with men probably started in her marriage. She was divorced so early and the relationship with her son was probably a reflection of the relationship with her ex-husband.

Her son did not go down the path she wanted, and we see that in the play. "I wanted him to go to work for the Gas & Electric Company where they treat their people so good. And the pay is so regular. But not him-- not him." There's an edge on "him" that is a condemnation.

Fonsia and Weller are two very strong wills in conflict. That is partly expressed in the very slight, wily, feminine form of Fonsia. She looks fragile, but underneath she has an iron will that can bend spoons. It makes quite a contest. You look at Fonsia and think, This looks like such a delicate flower here. But just wait...

When Weller describes Fonsia as vindictive, rigid and self-righteous, she is revealed. This is certainly not the totality of her being, but it's what has created all her problems throughout her life. She can't make the turn that's necessary to conquer some of those qualities. Ultimately a deep-seated need brings her to defeat Weller.

A Very Human Struggle 

The sympathy of the two characters is probably pretty evenly distributed at different times through the play. Later on, it will take another turn and we will become sympathetic to both of them. Especially, in the touching moment in the rain where Fonsia admits she's also in the nursing home on welfare, we see their humanity.

We see what brought each of them to this point. We still care for them and we want them to make something work here. Fonsia and Weller have had difficulty connecting in every relationship they've had, and they have trouble connecting with each other now. This is the struggle that we all have in trying to overcome our own natures.

The failure of Fonsia's and Weller's relationships seems to take on a pattern. In Fonsia's case, there's the rigidity and intolerance of an ungenerous spirit, though she's a wonderful woman in other ways. At the end of the play, her final words, "Oh no" express her horrifying recognition that "Oh no, I've lost it again. Only this time is almost certainly the last chance I'll ever have to get it right." She has just completely destroyed another relationship and she realizes, "Oh yes, I see, I am playing a big part in this, hence, I probably always have played a big part in it. Oh my God." That's the realization that I want to bring to dramatic fruition in The Gin Game.

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