BWW Review: KEY LARGO Brings Andy Garcia into the Eye of the Storm at the Geffen Playhouse
A storm is raging inside The Geffen Playhouse with the arrival of KEY LARGO, a bold reimagining of Maxwell Anderson's 1939 Broadway hit that became the iconic 1948 American noir film directed by John Huston, starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor.
Now playing in the Gil Cates Theater through December 10, 2019, the play adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Andy Garcia, produced in association with Frank Mancuso and Andy Garcia, and directed by Doug Hughes, honors the original story in which disillusioned World War II veteran Frank McCloud (Danny Pino) travels to a hotel in Key Largo to pay his respects to Nora (Rose McIver), the young widow of a fallen solider, who now runs the hotel with its owner, her blind father (Tony Plana) who claims to have "seen" and heard it all during his lifetime.
What McCloud doesn't count on is being confronted by an entirely different type of battlefield with mobsters who have overtaken the hotel, led by the ruthless Johnny Rocco (Andy Garcia, who dominates the stage channeling Al Pacino in The Godfather to the hilt), who is waiting for the culmination of a drug deal for money exchange. As a hurricane barrels toward the Keys, tempers flare and gunfire blares, forcing McCloud to face his demons in order to take down a monster.
Along the way, McCloud meets the others based at the hotel, including Rocco's long-time but past-her-prime moll Gaye Dawn (flame-haired Joely Fisher), who prefers to remain drunk rather than face the reality of her fading glory. Fisher makes the absolute most of her talents and Gaye's desperation while positioned on the staircase above everyone, accepting Rocco's challenge to sing "that song" in order to get another drink.
Rocco's band of mobsters who suffer rather rude awakenings during the storm, include dapper Toots (Stephen Borrello), boorish and rotund Curly (Louis Mustillo) whose soft spot for Gaye winds up being his undoing. Drug dealer Ziggy is portrayed by handsome Bradley Snedeker. Another unfortunate soul who enters the premises in search of escaped convicts only to face very real ones is Sherriff Gash (Richard Riehle) who gladly accepts cash from Rocco to look the other way when evidence of the upcoming drug deal is discovered.
Another star of KEY LARGO is the wondrous Key Largo Hotel set, designed by John Lee Beatty to fall apart appropriately as the hurricane rages outside. Especially effective is the glass dome ceiling through which the technical crew (Peter Kaczorowski, Alex Hawthorn, Kaitlyn Pietras, and Jason H. Thompson, accompanied by Arturo Sandoval's original music) brings the reality of the storm and threat of the hotel's destruction into reality. Doors fling open, shutters fall, while thunder and lightning strike, all of which seem to freak out Rocco way more than the threat of any gun pointed at him. That is, until McCloud finds his backbone and takes charge of the chaos around him.
Thanks to the skill of Mr. Garcia to dominate the action with his presence, eye-catching, post-World War II period-perfect costumes designed by Linda Cho which certainly add lots of flash to character portrayals, and the skill of director Doug Hughes and fight choreographer Steve Rankin, the raging intensity both outside and inside the KEY LARGO Hotel will keep audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the production, even though most probably know how the story will end, given the popularity of the 1948 film. Performances take place in the Gil Cates Theater at The Geffen Playhouse. 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024, nightly (except Mondays) with weekend matinees through December 10. Tickets are priced at $30-$155, available in person at The Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at (310) 208-5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org
Photo credit: Jeff Lorch