When D.L. Coburn's 1978 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "The Gin Game," opens at the Mechanic Theatre tomorrow, actors Charles Durning and Julie Harris will actually be playing gin on stage -- more than a dozen games.
Baltimore-born Coburn, who describes himself as the "gin choreographer," explains that the actors have a bit of an edge -- they play with a stacked deck. "You can still play gin with a stacked deck, it just gets easier," he says.
The published script lays out the make-up of the stacked deck: four aces, four twos, two sixes, five sevens, five eights, six nines, six tens and 20 face cards.
The reason for the stacked decks -- the reason the actors can't just fake it -- is that some theatergoers may be able to see the cards.
"They have to be real quick with each other, and they are," Coburn says of the actors in his two-character play. "There are times you say, 'I just gave you a queen,' and [the audience] can see whether it's a face card or not, so they have to save queens."
Even so, the cards in any given hand may not be the exact ones specified in the script, but at least they'll be close. "If I'm supposed to have kings, I try to have face cards," Harris explains. "We have more face cards than we should have just for that reason."
And how does the gin choreographer think his proteges are doing? "There's a lot of nuance," he says. "They play the game very well."
"The Gin Game" will be presented at the Mechanic, Hopkins Plaza, at 8 p.m. tomorrow through Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $29.50-$52.50. Call 410-752-1200.
Obie winner premiere
The Theatre Project has announced some additions and changes to its schedule. Highlighting the new offerings will be the area premiere of the Obie Award-winning "The Night Larry Kramer Kissed Me," written and performed by David Drake. The semi-autobiographical show, which chronicles Drake's coming of age as a gay man -- including his childhood in Maryland -- will be presented Jan. 27-Feb. 7. Throughout the run, the live performances will be filmed for future release as a motion picture.
Also added: the Rockville-based International Stanislavsky Theatre Studio will present "Little Tragedies," a series of one-acts based on the work of Pushkin, March 12-April 11. The company will also perform a family piece, "Kashtanka," during its Baltimore residency.
Finally, "A Grimm Story," by Studio K of Budapest, has been postponed, and "Danceteria," the dance anthology previously scheduled for March, has been moved to May. Call 410-752-8558.
Events in Washington often seem almost Shakespearean in scope, so what could be more fitting than to have a crew of the capital's leading commentators try their hands at some especially relevant passages?
That's what'll take place at a fund-raiser at the Shakespeare Theatre, 450 7th St. N.W., at 8 tonight. The Washington Post husband-and-wife team of Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn will deliver the scene in which villainous, misshapen Richard III woos Lady Anne over the corpse of her husband, whom Richard has murdered. And "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel will take the part of manipulative Cardinal Wolsey in "Henry VIII."
Among the other participants are Sam Donaldson, Cokie Roberts and Paul Duke. The scenes will be followed by a discussion of the privileges and responsibilities of public office, and the evening will end with a champagne and dessert reception. Tickets to the event, titled "Who's In, Who's Out: Leadership and Legitimacy According to Shakespeare," are $50 and benefit the theater's artistic and educational programs. Call 202-547-3230, ext. 2327.
More of the Bard
If you prefer a more traditional approach to Shakespeare, the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival will present its second annual "Young Players Marathon" of four student productions on Saturdayat Patapsco High School, 8100 Wise Ave., beginning at 11 a.m.
The marathon is the culmination of 13 intensive weeks in which professional festival directors have worked with students at four area high schools to stage abridged versions of four Shakespeare plays.
Here's the schedule: 11 a.m., "Romeo and Juliet," presented by Chesapeake High School and directed by Paula Hubman; 12: 45 p.m., "The Taming of the Shrew," presented by Baltimore City College and directed by Kim Martin-Cotten; 2: 30 p.m., "Macbeth," presented by Northern High School and directed by Brooke Behmke; and 4: 15 p.m., "As You Like It," presented by Patapsco High School and directed by Foster Solomon. The "Young Players Marathon" is free and open to the public. Call 410-837-4143.
'Show Boat' dates change
The 1995 Tony Award-winning revival of "Show Boat" has changed the dates it will dock at the Mechanic Theatre. The new dates are Jan. 8-24, shortening the previously announced engagement by one week due to scheduling changes made by the tour's producer, Livent Inc.