When the curtains rise on Key West, the audience is graced with one of the most perfectly designed sets in recent Sacramento theater history. The small stage is filled with two cabins, a patio and a beach boardwalk—details that defy a theatrical feeling. Despite the intimate setting—the theater holds just over 40—you can almost feel the ocean breeze on your face. Then the play begins, and the illusion falls apart.
Presented by Lambda Players, Key West’s story surrounds two gay friends vacationing at the clothing-optional resort Déjà Vu. Immediately we’re greeted by Tracy, inhabited nicely by Dave Garner, an over-the-top, flamboyant man who bears more than a passing resemblance to Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls. Tracy’s Southern charm mixes well with his gay mannerisms and is amusing for as long as it takes us to figure out that we are laughing at a stereotype and not a three-dimensional character. The same can be said for the rest of the characters in the two-act play. If Tracy’s “party gay” is one side of the stereotypical coin, the flip side is the “professional gay,” played by David Warpness as Mel. The question predictably becomes “Do opposites really attract?”
Comedy stereotypes are not necessarily a death sentence for a production, but they do require the actors to move beyond the script and run with what they’re given. Unfortunately, four of the play’s six actors have never appeared onstage before. In addition, Key West is helmed by a first-time director, Larry McFall. With a script that seems to prefer references to 1930s Hollywood starlets over character development, the actors are left with nothing to work with. The second act’s prolonged After School Special-style message celebrating love over sex is delivered in such an unbelievable manner that even the characters immediately dismiss it.
Billed as a campy comedy with lots of male nudity, Key West only delivers the latter. Notably Cimarron Spell, as a young housekeeper, provides the best laughs and a strong sense of camp, and a nude Scooby-Doo inspired chase is downright hilarious. However, by the time the curtain falls, it’s not enough to save the vacation.