BWW Reviews: THE GRADUATE by Repertory Philippines

By: Apr. 09, 2013
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Manila, Philippines, April 9, 2013 -- During Act One of "The Graduate," Benjamin Braddock (Reb Atadero) exclaims brattishly that his father (Jaime del Mundo) and everyone his father knows are grotesque. We think there couldn't be a more appropriate description to what follows in the next hour of the play.

Based on the novel of the same name by Charles Webb and the '60s film, starring Anne Bancroft and a young Dustin Hoffman, "The Graduate" is characterized by that feeling of being trapped; that need to breaking free; but ultimately, unable to escape fate.

The stage version, however, seems to miss the point of the story and portrays relationships of repulsive and whiny people -- even rewarding the characters with a happy ending.

The seduction scene, which is key for Braddock to have a temporary departure from the overwhelming world that his parents have set out for him, is supposed to be rooted from a young man's overpowering attraction to a beautiful, sophisticated, and willing mature woman.

We have nothing but respect for Pinky Marquez, one of the premier actresses in Philippine Theater, but she is all sorts of wrong for the iconic part of Mrs. Robinson. Marquez, who is tapped to replace veteran TV and film actress Cherie Gil, seems uncomfortable with the role; and portrays it with her distinctive singsong that is reminiscent of her Mrs. Gill in Douglas J. Cohen's "No Way to Treat A Lady." Her performance lacks any resemblance to the manipulative seductress who, on a deeper level, is trying to cope with buried sadness borne out of being trapped in a dull and loveless marriage.

Atadero, on the other hand, makes a goofy interpretation of Braddock, which is the same tone the supporting characters effectively employ in some of the scenes. However, Atadero does not offer a lot of depth nor a small opening for the audience to see any internal conflict. His bratty behavior on stage elicits a few laughs from the audience: In some scenes, Atadero acts more like a giggly 13-year-old who had just seen a naked woman for the first time than a young lad who has just finished college and has been trying to act like a man.

As if Braddock's baffling attraction to Mrs. Robinson was not enough, a whiny Cara Barredo enters as the young Elaine Robinson. Elaine talks about art and fighting for a cause; but later contradicts herself by questioning her suitability for an intellectual mate such as Braddock.

We ask ourselves, "Did they skip the part where Braddock took some powerful drugs that impaired his judgement?"

In the end, Repertory Philippines' take on Terry Johnson's "The Graduate" abandons all the intelligence that defined one of the best films of the '60s -- even rewarding the film-to-stage characters a happy ending, despite the rash and wrong decisions they make.

We distinctly remember the movie's ending with Braddock and the younger Robinson riding off the bus as the camera zooms in with uncertainty and regret on both their faces. As the scene fades out, it makes you realize that this is not a romantic story where people ride off into the sunset, and all their mistakes become a distant memory.

In fact, "The Graduate" is a cautionary tale that people in their most vulnerable state can keep making more mistakes, and sometimes we just have to put a stop before these mistakes consume us. This stage adaptation could have made use of that life lesson; it could have stopped altogether, and re-examined itself.

Photo by Shows in Manila