Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
D.L. Coburn's play, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1978, has been a showcase for actors since its Broadway premiere with Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy; subsequent Broadway productions starred Julie Harris and Charles Durning and, most recently, James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson. The dramatic action is deceptively simple, centering around two lonely residents of a retirement home who become friends, then antagonists, over a series of games of gin rummy.
Fonsia Dorsey (White) is coping with diabetes, Weller Martin (Brown) walks with a cane, and they are both alone on the home's sun porch on an afternoon when most of the other guests have visitors. Weller teaches Fonsia to play gin rummy, she takes to the game instantly, and before long the tensions of winning and losing spill over into their lives and their friendship.
Jones, who has directed numerous musicals at MetroStage, carries that grace and fluidity into this production. Both actors bring an infectious spirit to their performances: Brown, dapper and smooth (even when wearing pajamas, a robe and a hat, as costumed by Sigridur Johannesdottir), and White, timid at first but increasingly bold (and making her first appearance with curlers in her hair). Their rapport comes through most obviously when they briefly dance, but Brown is just as convincing when he has a moment of physical rage.
Carl Gudenius and Shuxing Fan have designed an expansive set filled with detail: the potted plants, the disused pieces of furniture cluttering up the porch, the dusty and generally run-down appearance of the building. Alexander Keen's lighting design and William G. Wacker's sound design conjure up a convincing thunderstorm.