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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, March 24, 2006

HPU's 'Gin' adds up to be a winner

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser

'THE GIN GAME'

Hawai'i Pacific University Theatre, Kane'ohe

7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 16

$20 general, discounts available

375-1282

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Who could predict that an ironic study of anger and manipulation in an old-age home would attract theater audiences?

That's the premise of D.L. Coburn's "The Gin Game," a neat gem of a two-character play. It was Coburn's first work, which earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1978.

In the 1980s, Joyce Maltby and Don Pomes starred in two Hawai'i productions of "The Gin Game." After more than 20 years, the pair reunite for another hand, under the direction of Mitchell Milan at Hawai'i Pacific University.

The 21st-century version may be even better because, like good wine, Maltby and Pomes have matured sufficiently to bring out the grace notes in the basic brew.

The play rides on the metaphor of a game of gin rummy between two lonely residents in a care home. The game reflects the way they've lived their lives, and exposes character through the ritual of card shuffling, strategy (what to keep? what to throw away?) and most important keeping score.

In gin rummy, the one who goes out with the most points wins. Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin are facing the ends of their lives without much to show on their score pads.

Pomes has the more direct role as Weller. Divorced and disconnected from his children and failed in business, he measures out his days with games of solitaire. Fonsia's luck at winning drives him to sudden outbursts of barely controllable anger. Maltby creates Fonsia as a bit of victimized driftwood floating far from the center of life's current.

Thankfully, little of the play is morbid or morose. Instead, it's buoyed by a liberal application of rest-home humor. "Gin Game" is a tidy package that entertains and moves well.