KPBS AIRDATE: February 11, 2005
It’s February, and love is in the air. Romance ensnares the old and the young, in Elizabethan and modern classics. Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” is all about the seasons of life and youthful love. “The Gin Game,” written by D.L. Coburn in 1976, concerns the search for companionship in the waning years. In both cases, Cupid’s arrow doesn’t strike with bloodless precision. True connection and commitment require a stripping away of armor and artifice, baring the soul, taking a metaphysical journey. Shakespeare’s play is set in the Duke’s court and the Forest of Arden. The idyllic escape proves to be less than ideal. But a new locale does allow the protagonists to try on new personas and attain new perspectives, which foster acceptance, and satisfaction in love.
For her stunning UCSD production, director Larissa Kokernot, a third year graduate student, underscores the flexible gender boundaries in this landscape of desire, and the dualities of romance: loyalty and betrayal, loss and regeneration, disaffection and reconciliation. The set is suggestive, the costumes beautiful. Among the many potent performances, the thoroughly credible Andrew Smith stands out as the lovesick Orlando, pining for his Rosalind, played by Lisa Velten, who’s lovely as a young lady and robust as a lad. There are numerous delights in the other three romantic pairings, but despite many moments of humor, the play leaves a bittersweet aftertaste of compromise and concession. In the forest, as in life, nothing is quite what it seems — or what you expected.
As “The Gin Game” shows us, self-delusion is a weak weapon against the world, and longevity doesn’t necessarily engender enlightenment. The play is set on the patio of the crumbling Bentley Retirement Home, a place as neglected as its residents. The prim, prissy Fonsia and the impatient, irascible Weller come together and play cards. With each successive game, that she casually, ingenuously persists in winning, another layer of deception is stripped away, and we come to realize why these two have no guests on visitors’ day, no friends in the facility. The often-humorous play takes an unblinking look at society’s disregard of the elderly. These seniors aren’t spared scrutiny; they’re forced to face facts and take responsibility for their acts and their lives. Director Randall Hickman, co-founder of Premiere Productions at the new Broadway Theatre in Vista, has double-cast the show. Edwin Eigner and Corinne Williams, Cast B, do an excellent job of drawing us in and making us care about these flawed and sometimes infuriating characters. Just goes to show; there’s someone for everyone. Happy Valentine’s Day!
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.