Extended intermission is over at Curtain Call in Stamford – indoor theater returns

When two elderly residents of a retirement home bond over a card game, life’s good, bad and ugly moments are captured in sometimes laughable moments and others, all but heart-breaking. Seen here in rehearsal for THE GIN GAME playing in The Kweskin Theatre, Stamford, October 22 through 25, are husband and wife performers, Gail and Ted Yudain. (Fotosbyfailla.com/contributed photo)

When stages went dark, schools became virtual and people isolated at home for months on end, family card games became quite popular. Back in 1977, one card game in particular gained notoriety from a hit Broadway production bearing its name: THE GIN GAME!

THE GIN GAME, written by D.L. Coburn,  provides a perfect transition for Curtain Call to return to live, in-person productions, now that capacity restrictions have made this two-person show possible. “THE GIN GAME has been a favorite of mine since seeing the original production on Broadway,” said Curtain Call executive director and producer for the show. “I had never seen a two character play before THE GIN GAME and was mesmerized by not only the material, but the performances of Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy,” he added.

The story of Weller Martin and Fonsia Dorsey meeting on the porch of their nursing home, is a powerfully bittersweet comedy. Over a series of gin games, they discover that they both dislike the home and enjoy gin rummy. As they expose their ailments, misfortunes, and losses in funny, honest and sometimes, heated exchanges, they reveal intimate details of their lives. And one of them has a tendency to win every game!

Besides winning the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, THE GIN GAME also took home two Tony Awards and has become known as a “star vehicle” for couples such as Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, E.G. Marshall and Maureen Stapleton, and James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson, to name a few who followed Cronyn and Tandy. Curtain Call has its own stars in married couple, Gail and Ted Yudain. The two have appeared in countless productions throughout Fairfield County, New York City and more, as well as at Curtain Call.

(Fotosbyfailla.com/contributed photo)

“I never expected to kick off my 20th season here this way,” Ursone said, discussing his plans for the months ahead. The entire 2020-2021 season – the theatre’s 30th – has been completely reshaped to meet the safety needs of both audience and performers. Enhanced cleaning protocols, as well as timed entry and organized dismissals, social distancing and mask-wearing for all patrons, are among the many ways the theatre experience will be different. State of CT guidelines do not require, nor encourage, temperature checks of patrons.

Asked about the team putting the show together, Ursone said, “I couldn’t think of a better director for this project,”  noting that Debra Lee Failla directed his first Curtain Call production in the fall of 2000. “Deb is a fabulous director and has helmed many of our most successful shows over the years, so I’m thrilled to have her on board for this,” Ursone added.

Failla said, “Yes, the play is as simple as it sounds, two people playing gin, but when you look deeper you see two lonely, elderly people who have been abandoned by society and their families, who are trying to connect with another human being. In the course of the play they reveal things about themselves, things that they bring out of each other, and they are forced to confront some not so simple facts about how they’ve lived their lives and what effect that’s had on them.”

THE GIN GAME is not necessarily known as a comedy, yet it has lighter moments. “While dealing with some difficult issues, there are moments where you will laugh, and moments that will challenge you…just as in life,” Failla said. “Having a mother who’s nearly 99 years old, I understand some of the many challenges facing the aging members of our society, and see them well-represented in this play,” said Ursone.

The first two indoor shows planned for the new season are both two-person shows that, for safety issues, feature actors who live together. Following THE GIN GAME, SAME TIME NEXT YEAR will play. For Halloween, Curtain Call will present a one night only production of DRACULA on their outdoor stage, presented as a 1940s radio show.   A special holiday presentation is also in the works for December. The award-winning theatre company plans to keep up its series of outdoor cabaret events as long as weather and patrons allow.

Performances of THE GIN GAME will be held in The Kweskin Theatre, Thursday, Friday and Saturday, October 22, 23 and 24, at 8:00pm and Sunday afternoon, October 25, at 2:00pm. The approximately 90-minute play will be presented without intermission to avoid restroom lines. Tickets are $35 for adults, $25 for senior citizens and $20.00 for children. Thrifty Thursday tickets are $27.50.  Box Office: 203-461-6358 x 36 or on the web at www.curtaincallinc.com. This production will also be available for viewing online, so check the theatre’s website for additional details.

THE GIN GAME is presented through special arrangement with Concord Theatricals in cooperation with The City of Stamford. Additional support is provided through the CT Office of the Arts.  Curtain Call is the non-profit community-based theatre company in residence at The Sterling Farms Theatre Complex, 1349 Newfield Avenue in Stamford. Year-round productions and educational workshops for all ages are presented by and for area residents in The Kweskin Theatre and The Dressing Room Theatre.

Curtain Call was voted Fairfield County’s BEST LOCAL THEATRE GROUP ten years running in the Annual Readers’ Poll of the Fairfield County Weekly and has received similar BEST OF awards from Stamford Magazine and StamfordPlus magazine for 2008 through 2019. Curtain Call received The Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2011 and the ACE Award for Excellence in Arts & Culture from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County.

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