Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Graduate

The Graduate
based on the novel by Charles Webb and;
the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
dramatized by Terry Johnson
live stage reading performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys
1.65 hours

Having graduated from from college and on track to live The American Dream, Benjamin Braddock is not so sure that that is what he really wants or even what that really means. It's 1967, societal paradigms are being deconstructed and Ben's self-assuredness, intelligence, angst and inexperience combine to mire him in months of indecision and a retreat into his parents' home and the arms of Mrs. Robinson. Why, exactly Ben chooses to sleep with the much older, alcoholic, intellectually stunted woman is not clear; but she serves as a foil to Ben's potential. Having lived according to the dictates of mid-century life, she has ended up as damaged goods and has the capacity to keep Ben bogged down. And why Mrs. Robinson chooses to seduce Ben remains equally unclear. She does not seem to gain anything other than immediate gratification from their relationship, though amelioration from the disappointments of her own life are implied. The situation becomes further complicated when Ben is set up on a date with Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter!

The Graduate is a comedy that finds its humor in finding the absurdity of the quotidian. Underneath the ideals of American life is the messy, complicated and bizarre constructs of human emotions and reactions. If you didn't laugh, you might cry; but there are great lines and ripostes written into the script and, the performances of the full cast ensemble show remarkable timing and chemistry. Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys reprised their roles as Mrs. Robinson and Ben respectively from the original run ten years ago in the West End.

The L.A. Theater Works production is a live stage reading and the audience's reaction to the exchanges provide the auditory cues for the listener. There are no foley effects, so the audience serves as the relay between the immediate action of the performers and the listener. The audience is always one step ahead, laughing, responding perhaps to the body language or facial expressions of the actors, while the listener waits for the explanatory line. While somewhat disconcerting, the overall performance comes across as fun and funny. You'll wish you had been there!

After graduating, Ben was at a crossroads in his life: He could either follow the path that his past had circumscribed for him or; he could try and forge ahead, creating his own path. We encounter similar choices almost continually in our lives: to go to college or not; to take on pre-med or theater courses; to live in a garrett starving for our art or selling out to take a computer programming job that pays... For decades, people were lifers in corporate jobs, pursued a single career or vocation. Now re-inventing one's self and having multiple careers in a single lifetime are very common. Do you think that the social revolutions of the 1960s played a role in forming the now-quotidian search for self (as manifested by what we do?) Extra points if you manage to incorporate "post-modernism" in your comment(s)!

See Also:
Kathleen Turner on Mrs. Robinson and Molly Ivins (L.A. Stage Times article by Steve Julian; 12/10/2010)
The Mark of Zorro (Audiobook Review of the Audio Drama based on the novel by Johnsotn McCulley; dramatized by Yuri Rasovsky and, performed by a full cast starring Val Kilmer)

Other Stuff: The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) qualifies for:

I purchased a digital dnload copy of The Graduate (based in the novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry; dramatized by Terry Johnson; performed by a full cast starring Kathleen Turner and Matthew Rhys) from iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.


  1. I'm not sure how I would do with the audience reacting to nonverbal cues, I think that would really distract me.

    1. It does give the listener pause every once in a while, "What? What is going on?" But after the audience reaction, the follow-up line usually answers the question. It's kind of interesting in that the performance is a staged reading, not a full performance - so the audience isn't relying on a huge action onstage either. The fact that you think you *need* to see the action; but that this audience responded to some other, perhaps more subtler cue, is a testament to the strength of the script. Of course, if the audience reactions were added in post, the point is moot :-/