Dates: 3 - 5 December 2004 Venue: The Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts

Reviewer: John Jane


 

 


 

 

 


Morgan Fairchild and Nathan Corddry

The Graduate is a Terry Johnson stage adaptation from Charles Webb’s semi autobiographical book that was made into the 1967 film that launched Dustin Hoffman’s film career. While this presentation acknowledges time and place from the printed version, the dialogue is more faithful to the Mike Nichols film. This production simultaneously gains and loses in the conversion from the 1967 celluloid original, which featured standout performances by Anne Bancroft, Katherine Ross, and Hoffman in the seminal title-role.

We first meet Benjamin Braddock, (ruefully played by Nathan Corddry) in the opening scene sitting on his bed, wearing a wetsuit and scuba mask. Benjamin is a recent graduate form an Ivy League college and the diving gear is a graduation gift he is expected to demonstrate to his parents' friends.

Benjamin ultimately refuses to indulge his father’s gratification, but before he leaves the house, he is visited in his bedroom by Mrs Robinson, the middle-aged wife of his father’s business partner. Mrs Robinson (Morgan Fairchild) on coming out of the shower, allows her towel to drop and proposes a sexual dalliance with the embarrassed young man.

Morgan Fairchild’s take on the Mrs Robinson character differs from Anne Bancroft’s portrayal of the self-assured, elegant seductress. Fairchild shows her as a vulnerable, frustrated victim of a loveless marriage, medicating herself with martinis. The 54-year-old, Dallas native is stunning in the role of the suburban trophy wife, whose presence demands attention whenever she is on stage.

The balance of the well-paced, first act examines the inevitable liaison between the awkward, socially inept Benjamin and the sexually experienced older woman. The tension brought about by the age difference begins to show, when Benjamin requires more intimacy, while Mrs R has only physical needs

 

 

 

 

The relationship is complicated further, when the young Braddock is encouraged by his parents to date the idealistic and naively optimistic Elaine Robinson (Winslow Corbett). He attempts to sabotage any potential involvement by taking her to a seedy roadhouse and cruelly ignoring her to watch a stripper.

Corbett, promoted from a junior role earlier in the tour, offers an intelligent portrayal of the capricious co-ed and arguably represents the biggest departure from the film version. However, while Corbett’s Elaine is sweet and charming, she comes a distant second in terms of charisma and sexual appeal to Fairchild, and thus presenting a credibility gap when Benjamin finally rejects Mrs R in favour of her daughter.

The church abduction scene where Benjamin desperately interrupts Elaine’s wedding ceremony, is notably omitted from this production. Johnson instead imprudently opts to take the final scene beyond the original ending with Elaine voluntarily leaving the church with Benjamin to arrive moments later in a cheap motel room, still unsure about the future.

Veteran actors William Hill and Corinna May are obliged to extend caricature performances as the autocratic Braddock patriarch and his subservient wife. Particularly in the redundant family therapy scene.

Morgan Fairchild as Mrs Robinson

Nathan Corddry has an almost impossible task of inheriting the Dustin Hoffman role and direct comparisons would be unfair. However, while Corddry demonstrates an understanding of the role, he doesn’t appear to have developed sufficient range to suggest Benjamin’s confusion and alienation.

Rob Howell's versatile set, consisting of double tiered louvered partitions, metamorphoses into Benjamin’s bedroom, hotel lobby, the Robinson’s home, and the roadhouse bar. Scene changes are signalled by taped music by Simon and Garfunkel from the sixties.

"And here’s to you, Mrs Robinson, Vancouver loves you more than you will know" (with acknowledgements to Paul Simon).

2004 John Jane

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