There has to be something very special about a play that was once a movie, that was once a book. Joesph Hayes’ Tony Award-winning play began life as a novel in 1954, and then he adapted it himself into a Broadway play starring Paul Newman who didn’t make it to the movie version (also penned by Joseph Hayes), that honor went to Humphrey Bogart.
So what is so compelling about this story that bridged three art forms so successfully? Well, it’s an absolutely riveting study of people under pressure. Good people and bad people and the lengths they will go to survive.
Three escaped convicts, two brothers Glenn and Hal Griffin and a third older inmate, the malicious Robish, are on the run waiting to meet up with the woman who helped them escape. They have to lay low and randomly choose nice middle-class neighborhood of new homes. The house they pick is occupied by a family of four, the Hilliards, mother, father, daughter and son, an average suburban home, unremarkable and otherwise insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Easy targets for their foul plot, or so they think.
What was supposed to be a few hours turns into days as news from their accomplice is dire and the net of police searching for them tightens. Trapped together like rats in a sinking ship, the escapees bicker and boil while the family does whatever it can to stay alive.
It’s a brilliant story and this adaptation by the wonderful Group Rep is truly excellent. They actually built most of the house on stage, the living room and bedrooms, all open to the audience like a dollhouse. In one corner is the local police station too, where the agonized Deputy Bard tries his best to track the brutes down, hell bent on finding the Griffins before they do any more damage. Bard was the Griffin’s original arresting officer, and in fact, he is the reason they are in town, to settle the score before they leave the country. He knows how vicious Hal can be and that every minute he is at large is a minute too long.
This is a nail-biting thriller. Full of furtively whispered plans and desperate breaks for freedom.
The villains underestimate the victims and the tenacity of Deputy Bard, to their own inevitable and bloody end. I remember seeing Group Rep’s version of Romero’s “Night of The Living Dead” pre-pandemic and was blown away by their attention to every detail and the incredible set. “Desperate Hours” is just as good.
Set in the 50s, every actor fully commits to the vintage vibe, and they recreate what feels like every nuance of the original production. The results are a tense and riveting play, every move of every character timed to perfection, every grimace exquisitely portrayed, every line delivered to perfection.
If you closed your eyes you could be back in the 50s, transported there, so utterly brilliant is this production.
I always enjoy Group Rep’s plays, they are ambitious and heartfelt and we should be thankful they call NoHo home.
However, I must tell you, this production is something else. Absolutely fantastic. The cast is wonderful, the bad are bad and the good are conflicted. Each and every performance gripping and thoughtful.
I am so impressed by every part of this show. You simply have to see it. Bravo!!!
Tom Winston … Bruce Nehlsen
Jesse Bard … Fox Carney
Harry Carson … Katelyn Ann Clark
Eleanor Hilliard … Gina Yates
Dan Hilliard … Lee Grober
Cindy Hilliard … Kat Kemmet
Glenn Griffin … Davino Buzzotta
Hank Griffin … Duke Pierce
Robish … Van Boudreaux
Chuck Wright … Mason Kennerly
Mr. Patterson … Steve Shaw
Lt. Carl Fredricks … Joseph Eastburn
Miss Swift … Lareen Faye
Ralph … Jackson Bethel
Running through July 10
Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 2pm
Lonny Chapman Theatre
10900 Burbank Blvd, NoHo Arts District, CA 91601