Review Roundup: THE GRADUATE at Laguna Playhouse

By: Mar. 06, 2018
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Review Roundup: THE GRADUATE at Laguna Playhouse The reviews are in for Laguna Playhouse's THE GRADUATE, starring Melanie Griffith! THE GRADUATE opened on February 21st, and is set to run through March 25th.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Jordan Riefe, The Hollywood Reporter: A full generation gap is essential to this May-December affair, that divide critical to establishing the tone of the piece. But even though age onstage tends to be far more elastic than onscreen, this pairing of newcomer Nick Tag as Benjamin Braddock and Griffith as Mrs. Robinson makes the gulf uncomfortably wide. Of course, if the gender roles were flipped, few would bat an eyelash about a 60-year-old man in a sexual relationship with a woman in her early 20s. This is a period piece, after all. But that kind of imbalance has been at the heart of much careful reconsideration of sexual politics lately, and whether audiences are ready for a neat reversal is another matter. Unfortunately, the problematic casting of Griffith is just one of the issues here. Adapting Calder Willingham and Buck Henry's screenplay based on Charles Webb's novel, playwright Terry Johnson conflates the movie's best dialogue scenes into a checklist, and director Michael Matthews rustles his cast through the material at a pace that suggests they've all got better things to do.

Michael Quintos, BroadwayWorld: On paper, the role seems like a perfect fit for the now 60-year-old star who has demonstrated prior success in playing sultry, seductive women. But as executed here in this production, the results---like the dysfunctional relationships that criss-cross in this play---aren't as well-matched as you'd hope it would be.For the most part, Ms. Griffith visually fits the role of a beautiful older woman who spots a nervous, anxious, vulnerable young man across the room and proceeds to have him wrapped around her nicotine-stained fingers... Alas, the delivered performance that continues throughout the play is a bit more subdued than one would hope Mrs. Robinson would be portrayed as, especially for a character that has so many layers of emotional baggage to unpack. Ms. Griffith's rather guarded, tentative performance betrays, perhaps, a nervousness to get all her lines out correctly... Overall, despite its missteps and being an imperfect adaptation, I have to say that I still found THE GRADUATE an entertaining piece of live theater on many levels. Ms. Griffith may draw you in out of curiosity, but I recommend staying for the whole experience not only to witness a promising newcomer's early acting work but also to see a quote-heavy Reader's Digest version of a nostalgic trip.

Eric Marchese, The Orange County Register: Though the lightly comedic aspects of "The Graduate" are adeptly handled, the story is meant as seriocomic. In Laguna the needed tension is nil. The dramatic facets are reduced to superficialities, making this "Graduate" a comedy of shallowness populated with cardboard characters... At Laguna Playhouse, snippets of valid, potent themes and ideas tantalizingly appear, only to evaporate. To Tag's credit, he doesn't try to mimic Dustin Hoffman, just as to her credit, Griffith doesn't imitate Bancroft. If playwright Johnson's point is that Ben is just as vacuous as Mrs. Robinson, then that point is well made here. More likely, though, the way the characters are presented in Laguna's production simply misses the boat.

Ed Rampell, Free Press: Your plot spoiler adverse reviewer won't reveal which Simon and Garfunkel song is heard over the theatre's p.a. system, but it should be bloody obvious. And without going into detail, the stage ending is good but doesn't pack anywhere near the wild wallop of the movie's denouement. In any case, Laguna Playhouse's production is enthusiastically recommended as a very funny comedy of manners and much more - although with a kinky plot, simulated sex scenes and semi-nudity, it's not for the kiddies. The play also gives audiences the opportunity to see Melanie Griffith perform live and in the flesh (and I mean, in the flesh), a movie star who was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award in 1988's Working Girl directed by - guess who? - none other than the immortal and much missed Mike Nichols.


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