A Win-Lose Situation

The Gin Game may have won the Pulitzer Prize, yes, but that doesn't mean it's a play worth reviving. (For another example of the Pulitzer committee's questionable taste in drama, consider that in 1945 the award was given to Harvey, Mary Chase's affable comedy about a man with an imaginary rabbit, over Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, one of the four or five great American plays.)

The Gin Game's longevity has much to do with the original 1977 production, which was directed by Mike Nichols and starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in indelible performances. The current pairing of Durning and Harris (which ran on Broadway for three months beginning in April 1997, earning Harris a Tony nomination) only furthers the argument that The Gin Game is less a satisfying play than an excuse to get two virtuoso actors together on the same set.

If Durning and Harris seem to be milking the small moments for all they're worth, it's because the big moments, such as they are, are rather trite. Fonsia isn't as bad as Weller accuses her of being. Weller doesn't deserve the punishment the playwright doles out to him. Life is much more engaging than this particular card game, even as delightfully dealt here by Charles Durning. Given her voluminous, five-Tony Award theater career, from I Am a Camera (1952) to The Belle of Amherst (1977), and high-caliber Hollywood credits, from The Member of the Wedding (1952) to East of Eden (1955), Harris brings a nearly unparalleled legacy of acting with her on stage. Even in the slightest of roles, she sparkles.

The Gin Game.
Written by D.L. Coburn. Directed by Charles Nelson Reilly. Starring Julie Harris and Charles Durning. Through April 4. Parker Playhouse, 707 NE Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale, 954-763-2444.

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