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gin game actorAnyone who has had the pleasure of watching Ray Stewart on stage knows that when Ray is in a play, the audience is in for a special treat. After more than 30 years of professional experience working on Broadway, in California and in television, this veteran professional retired and moved back to his family home in San Benito and has been delighting area audiences with his talents in shows like Gigi, Tuesdays With Morrie, and El Paseo's 2011 summer musical production of The Fantasticks.  Now El Paseo Arts Foundation is once again honored to have him grace the stage at the South Padre Island Convention Center as Weller Martin in The Camille Playhouse production of D.L. Colburn's tragi-comedy The Gin Game.

 

Ray has worked on stage with such famous actresses as Anne Bancroft and Eva Marie Saint so his leading lady this time feels pretty special to be joining him on stage as Fonsia Dorsey.  The lady is one of El Paseo's Board members, JoAnn Evans.  This will be the fifth production in which Ray and JoAnn have played opposite one another.  They first met about eight years ago when they were cast together in the Camille Playhouse's production of Barefoot in the Park.  They enjoyed working together and decided they would like to do it again.   So a year later when El Paseo was ready to mount its very first production, they starred together in the two person comedy "Postcards".  Ray had been in the original cast of the play on Broadway and suggested they try doing it together.  That was so much fun that they took on another one-act comedy, "I'm Herbert" which they performed for an El Paseo members only event, and then the duo paired "Postcards" and "I'm Herbert" for a special fundraising event at the Camille Playhouse. 

 

Two years later, they partnered again in another two person show for El Paseo, a readers theatre production of the comedy-drama Love Letters. Then they were cast opposite one another in their second Camille Playhouse's production -the comedy, The Tale of the Allergist's Wife.

 

When the Camille announced that The Gin Game would be one of the plays in their 2011-12 season, the opportunity to play opposite one another again in this award winning play was just too good to pass up, and JoAnn is oh so glad they didn't.  "Acting together is so much fun," says Evans.  "I always learn so much when I'm on stage with Ray, and working with him makes me a better actress. We like one another, and and the comfortable friendship that we enjoy off stage seems to make our conversations on stage very natural and very believable."

 

The Gin Game is a challenging show for any two performers as the tragi-comedy runs the full gamut of emotions.  The original Broadway production which was directed by Mike Nickols and starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy opened on Broadway in 1977 and ran for 517 performances.  It is a show that has come to be closely associated with Cronyn and Tandy who are regarded as two of the great performers in American theatre.  A Pulitzer Prize Winner and Drama Desk Award Winner, The Gin Game earned Tony nominations for best play, best director and best actor, and a Tony award for best actress for Jessica Tandy.  A subsequent revival with Julie Harris in 1997 earned Tony nominations for best revival and best actress.

 

The plot of The Gin Game seems pretty simple.  On the surface, it is the story of two people who meet on the porch of a seedy nursing home, play some gin games together, and as they play, converse about their lives. However, don't let the simple plot line fool you.

 

Weller is a lonely, bitter man with open contempt for his fellow human beings and a mistrust of intimacy.  He spends his afternoons cheating at solitaire until his meeting with Fonsia provides him the opportunity to perhaps have one last chance at a friendship.  Fonsia is equally lonely and full of contempt for others, but unlike Weller, she masks what is a manipulative, vindictive nature with a thin veil of prim, self-righteous gentility.

 

Their relationship begins with a light humorous tone, but it soon becomes clear that for these two flawed human beings there is no such thing as a friendly game.  Once they begin playing, the war is on and neither seems able to disengage from the conflict.   As the days wear on, any veneer of civility wears off. Their words become the ammunition they use to wound each other by striking at the vulnerablities they have revealed in their conversations.  They play on to the inevitable conclusion of a game where there can be no winner.

 

Critics have hailed The Gin Game as a fiercely funny, vibrant study on loneliness, disillusion, old age and death; a bittersweet comedy that is funny, sad, profane, eloquent, touching and beautiful.  The New York Times praised it as a thoroughly entertaining lesson in the fine art of theatrical finesse and the closest thing the theatre offers to a duel at ten paces. 

 

This gin game is one you will never forget and when the lights come down after the laughter, tears, harsh language, terror and finally truth, this gin game is one you will be glad you didn't miss.

 

Please Note:  The Gin Game contains adult themes and language.

Upcoming Events

The Gin Game

 

Gin Game

El Paseo Arts Foundation

Presents

 

The Camille Playhouse Production of

The Gin Game

 

Thursday,

March 22, 2012

SPI Convention Center

Curtain: 7:30 p.m.

 

Tickets: 

$25 per person

$20 for members

 

Tickets available for purchase at SPI Visitors Center, Paragraphs Bookstore, Designer Consigner and online at www.elpaseoarts.org

 

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Coming May 7th

The Fabulous

Manhattan Piano Trio

manhattan piano trio

 

May 7, 2012

SPI Convention Center

7:30 p.m.

 

This Juliard Trained Group not only are virtuouso musicians, but are entertaining performers.  Their musical performance is enhanced by their passion, their humor and their delightful and often playful rapport.

 

Tickets:

$25 per person

$20 members

 

Tickets available at all outlets April 1, 2012 

 

Spotlight on An Actor

 

Ray Stewart was born in San Benito. A graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, he served two years in the Army before moving to New York City where he studied at the famed neighborhood Playhouse School of Theatre. He is best remembered by television audiences for the character of Daryl Dricoll on "Barney Miller", and he was a regular on the Barbara Mandrell and Susan Anton series as well. He has guest starred on such major shows as "Dallas", "Falcon Crest", "Hill Street Blues", "Hart to Hart", "Fantasy Island", "Bob Newhart Show" and "Benson". He spent two years as a member of the Lincoln Center Repertory Company. His Broadway credits include "Postcards", A Cry of Players with Anne Bancroft, The Lincoln Mark with Eva Marie Saint, King Lear with Lee J. Cobb, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and Mary Stuart. Off Broadway, he was seen in Second City, Colette, Samuel Beckett's Play, and The Fantasticks with which he toured Japan on three occasions, playing over 30 cities. In California, he appeared in fifteen different musical productions for the Long Beach Civic Light Opera, The Sacramento Music Circus and the California Music Theatre in Pasadena. He also spent a season at the National Shakespeare Festival in San Diego. He retired to his home in San Benito and is now active in local theatre.

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