Regional Reviews: Seattle
The Graduate Earns Failing Marks
The plot line follows the movie, as Ben allows himself to be seduced by the boozy, bitchy Mrs. Robinson (a still attractive Morgan Fairchild), dumps her, and pursues a dangerous, stalker-like relationship with Mrs. R's daughter Elaine. The dialogue lifted from the film ("Are you trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson?") rings hollow, and almost always evokes unfavorable comparison with the film performances of Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and yes, even Katharine Ross. The additional scenes and lines created for the stage are reminiscent of any number of those bad, sex comedies that dotted Broadway and Hollywood in the '50s and '60s. Johnson's direction, recreated for the tour by Dan Fields is lackluster and abysmally paced. And the three pivotal performances don't help matters much.
I contend that Morgan Fairchild was one of the best TV soap vixens of the late '60s and '70s, beginning with a juicy turn as wacko femme fatale Jennifer on the old CBS sudser Search for Tomorrow, through turns on Dallas and Flamingo Road. But timeless good looks (clothed and unclothed) aside, her Mrs. R is nothing more than a braying harridan. Nathan Corddry is a geeky Benjamin, and he plays up the character's apathy but finds little else to make him interesting. Winslow Corbett is a windup doll Elaine, with her performance evoking any number of failed sitcom heroines. William Hill scores some compassion as Ben's hapless Dad, and Dennis Parlato gives some poignant shading to the role of the cuckolded Mr. Robinson before overplaying his big wedding scene freak out. The remainder of the ensemble has precious little to do, and yet in scenes such as Ben and Elaine's dinner out at a strip joint, one wishes there were more bodies onstage.
Christopher Cronlin's sound design came across tinny, hollow and muddy on opening night, and the insertion of non-Simon and Garfunkel musical sound bytes was another distraction; perhaps a wholly new musical score would have been a better option. Rob Howell's costumes have an appropriately off-the-rack '60s look to them, and Hugh Vanstone's lighting design is unobjectionable.
Several of my friends who didn't see this version of The Graduate assumed this was a musical version of the film. Given the relative box office lure of this version, I wouldn't be surprised to see the property become a musical in the not too distant future. Hopefully, it would be a vast improvement over this bowdlerization.
The Graduate runs through May 1 at the Paramount Theatre, 9th & Pine in downtown Seattle. For more information visit www.theparamount.com on-line.
- David-Edward Hughes