Conversations over gin rummy in Pulitzer Prize-winning play

Who wants to wind up in a nursing home and how does one adapt to the stasis and inactivity?

In the 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winning play “The Gin Game,” two elderly residents, bored with the residence routine, strike up a friendship. He offers to teach her gin rummy. She wins every hand. He becomes frustrated, she gains confidence.

While playing, they share conversations about their lives. The conversations also become increasingly competitive, as both probe for weaknesses in each other and in the game. As their card games heat up, so do their battles of words and wit. If others at the nursing home are dozing off in easy chairs, these two are wide awake and fiercely focused.

Idyllwild Actors Theatre presents “The Gin Game,” starring two pedigreed performers — off-Broadway veteran Kathleen Walker, who starred in last year’s well-received IAT production “On Golden Pond,” and Ramona Pageant, stage and movie veteran Allen Purchis.

“The Gin Game” was the first play written by Donald L. Coburn and the first produced by American Theatre Arts in its initial production in Los Angeles. By way of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven and the Wilbur Theatre in Boston, “The Gin Game” migrated to Broadway. It opened at the John Golden Theatre in October 1977, directed by Mike Nichols. It played for 517 performances and closed in December 1978. It was nominated for Drama Desk and Tony awards, scoring a Tony Award Best Actress in a Play win for Jessica Tandy.

Her husband, Hume Cronyn, with whom she often appeared, was nominated for Best Actor Drama Desk and Tony Awards. This first play by new playwright Coburn scored a Pulitzer, with judges noting, “The one play … of sufficient originality, invention and staying power was ‘The Gin Game.’”

IAT presents “The Gin Game” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 1 and 2, at Town Hall. Tickets are $18 at the door or online at For more information, call 951-692-9553.