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In spades: ALT to host online performance of ‘The Gin Game’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A pair of elderly nursing home residents strike up a conversation that devolves into a game of gin rummy.

A tour-de-force of life histories and button pushing emerges as the games grow increasingly personal.

The roles of Fonsia Dorsey and Weller Martin will be played by, respectably, Debi and Peter Kierst in “The Gin Game.” (Courtesy of The Albuquerque Little Theatre)

The Albuquerque Little Theatre will perform Donald L. Coburn’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Gin Game” online beginning at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 12-13 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 14. Performances repeat on weekends through March 21. Ticket prices range from $12 to $30, plus fees. See albuquerquelittletheatre.org for tickets.

Weller Martin thinks of himself as an expert gin player but newbie Fonsia Dorsey keeps on winning. As this continues for weeks, Weller is beside himself with frustration and angrily insists that luck is against him. Viewers begin to see how the dynamics of their relationship mirror their lives. Actors Debi and Peter Kierst draw their audience into this “game” of life.

“Their relationship mirrors their relationships with their former partners,” director Nancy Sellin said.

The two repeat old habits as the play unveils.

“They can’t seem to help themselves,” Sellin added.

Weller resents his continued losses to the inexperienced Fonsia to the point of explosion.

“Weller keeps losing to Fonsia, the woman who just learned to play,” Sellin said. “He goes crazy. He ends up verbally abusing her. She is a passive-aggressor.”

Their relationship descends from friendly and flirtatious to verbal warfare.

“He doesn’t like to lose; he lost his business, so she knows how to push his buttons,” Sellin said, “and he goes, ‘I know what’s wrong with men, they all had mothers like you.’ ”

Debi Kierst is a long-time Albuquerque resident and has worked at various theaters all over town. Most recently, viewers may have seen her as Eleanor in “The Lion in Winter,” Amanda in “The Glass Menagerie,” Mary Tyrone in “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,” Mary in “Mary Stuart” and Lady Bracknell in “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Peter Kierst has been part of Albuquerque theater since 1972. He was interim artistic director of ALT from 2006-2007, and last appeared on stage here as Salieri in “Amadeus” and the stage manager in “Our Town. He is artistic director of the Vortex Theater’s New Mexico Shakespeare Festival, and will direct “Hamlet” this summer.

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