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Posted July 23, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Two characters in 'Gin Game' fully realized

Faith Potts and James Laster
Faith Potts, left, and James Laster star in Wayside's production of "The Gin Game." Performances will be held through Aug. 15 at the theater in Middletown. Courtesy photo


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By John Horan Jr. -- jhoran@nvdaily.com

MIDDLETOWN -- Gin rummy is a tame card game, unlikely to arouse much suspense and certainly no passion. But in "The Gin Game," the acerbic comedy at Wayside Theatre, the innocuous pastime generates paroxysms of fury, more akin to blood sport, and opens a window into the souls of two old, lonely people.

The ferocity and revelations come later in D.L. Colburn's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which unfolds as a series of card games between two residents of a home for the elderly.

"The Gin Game" is, in theater parlance, a "two-hander," a play with only two characters. But each of them is distinctively drawn and, as portrayed by James Laster and Faith Potts and directed by Warner Crocker, fully realized.

Weller, Laster's character, is a funny, foul-mouthed curmudgeon, bitter at the hand life has dealt him. Potts' Fonsia is more enigmatic and deferential for much of the play although she too is eventually forced to confront unpleasant reality.

The soul-bearing takes a back seat to the amusing card games, however. Fonsia is a reluctant participant and professes to be rusty at gin, but Weller insists and grows increasingly exasperated as she consistently beats him. When he finally wins a hand, he accuses her of losing on purpose.

Their amiable banter turns more serious as the play progresses and each discloses secrets that reveal how they have wound up in such dreary surroundings absent the support of family and friends.

Til Turner supplies a spacious, forlorn game room, replete with a miscellany of odds and ends, that encapsulates the dismal environs Weller and Fonsia have come to inhabit. Catherine Lovejoy provides apt costumes.

"The Gin Game" continues through Aug. 15. The box office phone number is 869-1776.

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