If I was to say to you, “Plastics, Benjamin”, you would likely think of a particular movie instantly. The same thing likely would occur with the line “Mrs. Robinson, I think you’re trying to seduce me” or if you heard the Simon and Garfunkel song, “Mrs. Robinson”. All of these reference the wonderful 1960s movie, “The Graduate“. This movie was adapted for the stage and had a successful run on Broadway with Kathleen Turner (the audio version was recently broadcast on KPCC/LA Theatre Works). Our favorite little theatre you probably didn’t know about, REP East, has recently opened its version of “The Graduate”, and I’m pleased to say that have done their usual excellent job with it.
You’re not familiar with the movie, you say? Well then, I’ll just have to summarize the story. Benjamin Braddock (24) has recently graduated from college and is unsure what to do with his life. At his graduation party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s best friend comes on to him, but he rebuffs her. She asks him to drive her home, and once she gets home, she attempts to seduce him. This rapidly turns into a full blown affair. When Elaine Robinson, her daughter, comes home from Berkeley, Benjamin’s parents and Mr. Robinson set them up on a date. Mrs. Robinson objects, but Benjamin goes anyway. He is rapidly smitten, ends the affair, and pursues Elainse. The pot boils over when news of the affairs comes out, and, well, you’ll need to see the play to see the rest.
As you can tell, this play has adult themes. The director, Mikee Schwinn, has toned down the nudity a little for Santa Clarita audiences, but unless you’re familiar with the original, you probably won’t notice (basically, the shocker of the Kathleen Turner version was the amount of full-frontal nudity, and there is much less—but still some—in the REP version). However, the story itself is unchanged and is executed well. The performances themselves are very believable—you can easily see why the terms “Cougar” or “MILF” could have originated with this story.
The three lead performers are excellent. As Benjamin Braddock, Reid Gormly does a good job of portraying a fresh college grad who doesn’t know what he wants out of life, chasing the now. He falls into the affair, because it was there, and it likely seemed like a good idea at the time. This all comes across in Gormly’s performance. Playing his older foil, Jordana Capraæ is a woman who wants to be in control—to get what she wants—and she takes no prisoners along the way. However, when she is crossed there is trouble to pay. Lastly, as Elaine Robinson, Jessica Temple wonderfully portrays Elaine’s initial naivete, but by the end you realize that she’s got the same “take charge” attitude as her mother. All great.
In the second tier, we have Daniel McCann as Mr. Robinson, Harry Bennettæ as Mr. Braddock, and Laurie Morgan as Mrs. Braddock. These are smaller roles, but all the actors do well. In particular, McCann does a good job of portraying the hurt, cuckolded husband, and I particularly enjoyed Morgan portrayal of Benjamin’s mother in the earlier scenes. Lastly, Kevin Rhedin rounds out the cast in various small roles.
The set, constructed by O Michael Owston (the artistic director) manages to support a large number of different scenes in a very small space, with an upper bedroom area, a lower area that doubles as a wide variety of locals, and a bed that pushes out for more “in front” bedroom scenes. It could be improved by adding some curtains on the sides to shield the offstage area better. The lighting, by Tim Christianson, was excellent as usual. Steven “Nanook” Burkholder provided good sound effects, although the crowd noises could be lowered slightly. Vicki Lightner served as stage manager and coordinated the props.
“The Graduate” continues at REP East until December 17. Tickets are available through the REP’s Online Box Office. Subscriptions for the 2012 season at the REP area now available ($230 for two tickets to every show, $120 for one, and $81 for a 5 show flex pass, with additional discounts for seniors and students). The 2012 season consists of: “Jewtopia” (January 20-February 25), “Journey’s End” (March 16-April 14), “The Great American Trailer Park Musical” (May 11-June 16), “The Laramie Project” (July 13-July 28), “Play Dates” (August 17-September 1), “Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure” (September 21-October 20), and “Moonlight and Magnolias” (November 16-December 15).
Upcoming Theatre, Concerts, and Dance: The first weekend of December brings “Lost and Unsung“, a celebration of music cut from musicals, at LA City College. The next weekend is busy, with a Mens Club Shabbat in the morning, and “Travels with my Aunt” at the Colony Theatre in the evening. The end of December brings “Fela!” at the Ahmanson Theatre (on 12/29). The remainder of December is unscheduled, but there is the de rigueur movie and Chinese food on Christmas day. January will bring the first show of the REP East season, as well as (hopefully) “Art” at the Pasadena Playhouse and “God of Carnage” at ICT Long Beach (ticketed for February 5). February will also bring “Ring of Fire” at Cabrillo Music Theatre, “Old Wicked Songs” at the Colony Theatre, and Bernadette Peters in concert at the Valley Performing Arts Center. As always, open dates are subject to be filled in with productions that have yet to appear on the RADAR of Goldstar or LA Stage Alliance.