Known for his stellar performances in the movies Ocean’s Eleven and The Godfather III, Andy Garcia takes on the role of a bigger-than-life mobster Johnny Rocco in a world premiere adaptation of the play “Key Largo” by Maxwell Anderson and the 1948 Warner Bros., film noir starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson.
Now at the Geffen Playhouse, Garcia and Jeffrey Hatcher adapted this production and hired Tony award winning scenic designer John Lee Beatty, to create the Key Largo Hotel lobby set. As one of the most renowned scenic designers, he and his team create a hotel that becomes an integral part of setting the tone for the drama brewing inside and out. When Garcia and his group of “merry men” hole up inside the hotel until a hurricane passes through, the tension inside is as electrifying as the lightning outside.
The staging by director Doug Hughes is a little dull in the beginning, as GI Frank McCloud (Danny Pino) pays a visit to the hotel to meet the widow and father of a fallen soldier, Victor D’Alcala. Victor’s wife Nora (Rose McIver) lives with her blind father-in-law Mr. D’Alcala (Tony Plana) inside the hotel. It’s hard to compete with Bogart and Bacall’s performance in the movie, and unfortunately Pino and McIver lack the chemistry to make their scenes captivating to watch during the first Act. I was more interested in appreciating the 1940s period costumes by Linda Cho, and the weather changing outside the hotel.
When Gaye Dawn (Joely Fisher) took the stage, the energy level perked up. Also mobsters Curly (Louis Mustillo) and Toots (Stephen Borrello) provided some comic humor. Then Garcia graced the stage, and a light bulb clicked on brighter. His electrifying performance reminded me of the intensity Al Pacino delivers in many of his stage performances and movies.
Lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski helped in making the approaching hurricane seem realistic, as did sound designer Alex Hawthorn and projection designers Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. THompson. With wind, rain, thunder and lightening, this set should win some Drama Awards.
Just as things calm down in the eye of the hurricane, they heat up again with the entrance of golden voice gangster Ziggy (Bradley Snedeker). The drama of the story really starts to shine as guns are drawn and fired, however I found the fight scenes a little amateurish, almost like something you might see in a high school performance.
Rocco is used to getting what he wants as the “King of Kings” until he shows up at this hotel in Key Largo. He reminds me of Donald Trump before and during his Presidency. Rocco is especially cruel to the blind father in law, sexually assaulting to young Nora and a bully to “wildcat” Gaye. Fisher as the aging, alcoholic, showgirl plays a desperate and pathetic woman very well.
McIver’s character Nora heats up the romance with Frank after intermission, and winds up saving the day in this crime thriller production.
Adapted by Jeffrey Hatcher and Andy Garcia
Produced in association with Frank Mancuso and Andy Garcia
Directed by Doug Hughes
Based on the play by Maxwell Anderson and the Warner Bros. film
Produced by special arrangement with Warner Bros. Theatre Ventures
Previews: Wednesday, November 6 – Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Opening Night: Thursday, November 14, 2019
Closing Night: Tuesday, December 10, 2019
2 Hours, including one 15-minute intermission
Stephen Borrello as Toots, Joely Fisher as Gaye Dawn, Andy Garcia as Johnny Rocco, Rose McIver as Nora D’Alcala, Louis Mustillo as Curly, Tony Plana as Mr. D’Alcala, Danny Pino as Frank McCloud, Richard Riehle as Sherrif Gash, Bradley Snedeker as Ziggy
Scenic Designer John Lee Beatty, Costume Designer Linda Cho, Lighting Designer Peter Kaczorowski. Sound Designer Alex Hawthorn, Projection Designers Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson, Original Music by Arturo Sandoval, Fight Choreographer Steve Rankin, Production Stage Manager Ross Jackson, Casting Director Jeff Greenberg, CSA
Monday No performance. Tuesday – Friday 8:00 p.m. Saturday 3:00 and 8:00 p.m. Sunday 2:00 and 7:00 p.m.
Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024
Tickets currently priced at $30.00 – $155.00. Available in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310.208.5454 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org.
Photo by Yann Rabanier