Pulitzer Prize winning playwright D. L. Coburn was intrigued by DC area reviews of his play, The Gin Game, at MetroStage, enough to make a special trip to see it.
He wrote the play 40 years ago and has seen countless productions all over the world— it’s recently been produced in Italy, China, Russia, and Japan. Still, something caught his eye about this particular show so he traveled from Texas to catch it, then joined Carolyn Griffin, Roz White and Doug Brown for an enlightening talk-back.
Coburn was generously forthcoming and sharing about his experience, describing how he wrote the play at the age of 37 knowing next to nothing about older characters. The play grew and developed as he was writing, starting with the tension between two characters, obsessed with indomitable wills. As the story began to emerge, the characters found themselves in a nursing home environment which anchored the piece with a sense of place.
Carolyn Griffin, Artistic Director of MetroStage, shared this: “D. L. Coburn and his producer were interested in seeing it with an African American cast. It took 3 years to find the time when both James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson were avail for their limited run on Broadway. So MetroStage’s commitment to this African American cast is presumably the second production with an African American cast in its 40 year history! That, along with our soundscape and the use of music were reasons why he was so interested in our production.”
In the talk back, Doug Brown and Roz White described the incredible layering that’s embedded in the text and both enjoy discovering how new beats and moments emerge and unfold with each show. There are several times when the audience literally holds its collective breath as the tension builds, waiting anxiously for the characters’ response and reaction.
Brown and White also shared the fearlessness that happens with each performance, trusting to be totally in sync with each other during the scripts’ multiple twists and emotional turns. Listening to the playwright describe his writing process and express his excitement about this particular production was a tribute to Griffin, Thomas W. Jones II the director and all of the designers at MetroStage.
Want to go?
The Gin Game
closes March 12, 2017
Details and tickets
Coburn noted that each country has its own cultural style in presenting the universality of the characters. Weller and Fonsia make totally different impressions as elderly residents in whatever culture is being presented. No matter what the language, the core and dynamics of the relationship between the characters is what touches people. The same thing happens with casting African-Americans in the roles. Coburn saw that first hand and was thrilled with James Earl Jones and Cecily Tyson in the production on Broadway and wondered what a theater in the Washington area would do with the characters.
“I want people to see it done right, and if they don’t get this right, it is like a bunch of temper tantrums,” he told D Magazine in 2015. Judging from his ear-to-ear grin on the night of the performance, the MetroStage production is definitely done right and worth the trip.