The San Luis Obispo Little Theatre will host a play this month that proves size and grandeur aren’t everything in show business. The Pulitzer Prize-winning, two-man play “The Gin Game” will give audiences a glimpse into the harsh realities and experiences that come with aging.
“This play is about old people who were once young, and young people who grew old, and middle aged people who hide uncertainly someplace in between,” director John Pillow said. “It speaks for all of us because we are all going to get there — we hope.”
“The Gin Game” gained popularity after it debuted on Broadway in 1977. It is comprised of two-acts which follow the story of an elderly pair, Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin, who meet in a nursing home and play a series of gin games throughout the production. As the plot unfolds, the characters reveal their pasts, including regrets and failed relationships, to one another through a banter full of witty one-liners and expletives.
The relationship develops further as the pair deals with the trials and tribulations of aging and soon come to realize the relationship developed too late in their lives, Pillow said.
For leading woman Rae Stone, who plays Fonsia and has acted for 52 years, the sensitive topics are what intrigued her to join the production.
“The issue of aging, dementia, the gradual loss of control and, very tragically, the loss of family as you age is an issue that is not often addressed,” Stone said. “It’s an important piece given that baby boomers are the largest demographic in history. It’s an important message that goes out to that demographic and to all of our community.”
The play may not be an evening of light-hearted theater, but “The Gin Game” hits very personal nerves and touch people directly, Stone said.
Since the play focuses on the elderly pair, there is a lack of spectacle seen in traditional theater — the entirety of the show takes place at a gin table. However, the play is not just about being elderly.
Take the main character Weller for example.
“Weller is kind of in denial about getting old,” Pillow said. “The gin game is his last grasp at something that keeps him active. He doesn’t want to be one of the people in a wheelchair staring at the television all day flashing away or being talked to like a baby.”
Weller is played by Tom Ammon. With 32 years of acting experience, Ammon said he has wanted to play a role like this one for a while.
“As you go through your acting career, there are certain parts and ages you can play,” he said. “This was a part I’ve wanted to play for a while now, and I’m at the age where I can do it.”
More importantly, Ammon said “The Gin Game” exposes the audience to a side of life they may not be used to seeing, but it gives light to certain aspects that are good to face.
It wouldn’t be believable if the acting wasn’t there, and in this case, Pillow said he found the perfect pair to help him strip the production of all theatricality. He and his two sole actors are able to focus more on making the production as real as possible because this is a straight play, or one that is comprised mainly of spoken drama.
“When you have two actors that are able to communicate and create real people in front of you (such as Stone and Ammon), you stand there and you’re not looking at actors — you are watching two people in a relationship going through the highs and lows of the system,” Pillow said.
The ability to rouse emotions and create a catharsis, as Pillow called it, is his proudest achievement thus far, and a reason in itself to go see “The Gin Game”, he said.
The play will run from April 8 to May 1 at the San Luis Obispo Little Theatre located at 888 Morro St. Tickets are $15 to $22 and available online or by calling 786-2440.