Westwood, CA - Key Largo based on the classic Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall film and the reimagined version of Maxwell Anderson’s blank verse play lionizes producer, co-writer and star Andy Garcia. The play was originally produced in 1939 and the film was hulled from there.
This iteration is co-written by Jeffrey Hatcher, co-produced by Frank Mancuso with Andy Garcia and directed by Doug Hughes as a vehicle that spotlights Andy Garcia’s head mobster Johnny Rocco.
The riveting set design by scenic designer John Lee Beatty settles the audience into a hotel lobby in Key Largo against the backdrop of an oncoming hurricane. Returning from World War ll, Frank McCloud (Danny Pino) has come to pay respects to the widow of a fallen comrade. Soon after his arrival he realizes that mobsters have overtaken the hotel and he’s forced to fence off his own demons if he’s to conquer the head mobster before him, Johnny Rocco.
Originally the focus in the film was on McCloud played by Bogart but here the target shifts to Rocco as Andy Garcia snares Edward G. Robinson’s shoes with stiletto ease. Garcia is on fire in both acts and is the main reason to visit the Geffen to see Key Largo. This Academy Award Nominee proves he’s an unstoppable beast on stage with his immersion into the character and fits into the atmosphere with the play’s main fire and dragon against the impending hurricane. He dominates every scene he’s in.
Joely Fisher is a welcomed pained yet comic relief who leaves us begging for harlot Gayle Dawn to be given more to do. She’s pitch perfect as the boozy has-been with a worn sexuality that reveals how she once sizzled and popped as a lounge singer.
If any fans are looking for the chemistry of a Bogie and Bacall – you’ll have to see the film to experience those pheromones in action. The words aren’t there for the actors to connect.
There’s too much exposition unless Garcia or Fisher are on stage. Each of the minor characters have moments that require the director to tighten the action, direct more business to witness or for the writers to add dialogue that helps them flesh out and have us stand up.
If you love Andy Garcia it’s well worth the ticket. He consistently proves that he’s an actor that can morph and command at will. It’s no easy feat to leap into famous roles but Garcia succeeds.
Ends Dec. 10th at the Geffen Playhouse, Gil Cates Theater, 10886 Le Conte Ave., L.A.
Tickets: $30-$155 Info: (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org Running time: 2 hours (one intermission)