In a conversation with Andy Garcia at the after-party for “Key Largo,” the Oscar-nominated actor spoke of the usual Hollywood struggles to launch new projects. However, this project was different. He was given “an easy ‘yes’” about working on the adapted stage play.
“Sometimes people don’t realize how difficult it is to get projects made,” said Garcia, the play’s co-adapter and coproducer. “I’ve had a blessing in my life. I’ve been able to curate a long career as an actor, but whenever I’ve had personal projects, typically all I’ve ever heard was ‘no.’ So, I really have the Geffen to thank for being so supportive.” (More from Garcia below.)
The opening-night celebration for “Key Largo” at the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood took place at Napa Valley Grille on Thursday, offering theater donors and other VIPs a chance to congratulate the cast over cocktails and a late-night supper. The world-premiere production is Garcia’s and playwright Jeffrey Hatcher’s updated version of the original 1939 play by Maxwell Anderson and the 1948 film classic starring Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Edward G. Robinson.
As a hurricane slams into the Florida Keys, a World War II veteran arrives at a local hotel to pay his respects to the widow of a fallen soldier. He finds a mobster and his gang holed up there, about to complete a drug deal. Setting the mood, the play features original music by Arturo Sandoval.
As partygoers lined up at the buffet tables, Garcia entered to applause and warm greetings from the play’s coproducer Frank Mancuso, seated with his wife, Fay, as well as his family members and friends. The cast then gathered against the official backdrop for photos as guests crowded in for cellphone shots.
Among 450 guests celebrating along with Garcia, Hatcher, Mancuso and director Doug Hughes were cast members Joely Fisher, Danny Pino, Tony Plana, Rose McIver, Bradley Snedeker, Louis Mustillo, Richard Riehle and Stephen Borrello, plus actors Joe Pesci, Beau Bridges, French Stewart, Vanessa Claire Stewart and Richard Kind.
Kind called the play “terse and fast-moving,” and the writing “smart, not jokey, but funny. You don’t find things like this so much anymore — old-fashioned melodrama.”
“I am ‘pinch-me lucky’ to have this role,” said Fisher, who plays Garcia’s alcoholic girlfriend. Although admitting to feeling “a little bit scared” of following Claire Trevor’s Oscar-winning performance in the film, she said, “I’ve tried to stay away from the film but not because of the comparison. … It’s just that I wanted to find [the character] myself. She’s obviously hitched herself to the wrong post but she is hopeful, searching. … I feel like she’s kind of Patient Zero of the #MeToo movement.”
Garcia said he’d seen the movie many years ago “and it became a movie I really admired. So, when I saw it was based on a play, I read the play and immediately thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to put it back on the stage?’ But then, I figured, ‘Well, it’s just an idea.’”
After staging a concert at the Geffen, however, playing piano and percussion and singing with his 13-piece Cuban orchestra, the Cineson All-Stars, Garcia mentioned the idea to the theater’s executive director, Gil Cates Jr., and artistic director, Matt Shakman. “Instead of saying ‘no,’” he recalled, “they said, ‘When can you start?’ So I thought, ‘OK, here’s a ‘yes,’ and now it’s up to me to deliver. ... And there you have it.”
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays.-Fridays., 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays., 2 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Dec. 10.
Info: (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.org
Running time: 2 hours (one intermission)