Pros: Actors, Set, Music, Lorraine Bracco (naked)!
Cons: $7 for an Amaretto Sour?!
You know, I made a sort of promise to myself that I would publish at least one review on Epinions each month. Since today is November 30, and I havent published a review since October 19, I should try to write one today, dont you think? And since its 10pm (Thankfully, thats only 7pm in the Pacific time zone where Epinions keeps track of dates.), I really ought to get a move on, eh? Luckily, I saw The Graduate on Broadway today, so I can write about that. In fact, I think I will. Aggravatingly enough, though, The Graduate does not occur in the Epinions database. I will post this under Times Square for now, and hopefully the appropriate category will eventually be added. I just hope the original publication date will stick, since I have this weird OCD thing going on.
The Graduate is currently showing at the Plymouth Theatre on Broadway. As we entered the auditorium, a theatre employee told us that Bathrooms are located downstairs. She said this in a bored monotone that seemed to lament the pointlessness of existence. As we passed her, we heard her say to the next group of entrants, Bathrooms are located downstairs. This sparked the realization that this poor woman was employed for no purpose other than to announce the location of the lavatories. I suppose that, in the great scheme of things, the poor dears existence really is pointless.
I should mention who we were. My close friend from high school, Spring Berman, told me two days ago
that she had an extra ticket to The Graduate, because her mother had decided that she didnt want to go; so did I want to join her and her father? Of course, I said yes. I was really looking forward to spending time with Spring, and Id never pass up a chance to go to a cultural event. I had never really spent any appreciable amount of time with Mr. Berman before, but he turned to be quite a pleasant man, who had been the president of his chapter of the same honor society of which I am now a chapter president. He tended to be a bit helter-skelter, his mind going of on tangents without any real warning, but hes definitely a very nice guy. And Im not just saying that because he treated me to two meals.
So we took our seats, after being told where they were by the woman standing next to the bathroom delineator. They were comfortably firm seats in red velvet (or velvet-like material), and we were pretty close to the front (although in the left section rather than the center, as one looks at the stage). Flipping through the Playbill, I noticed that the last page (Celebrity Choice, which describes the favorite restaurants of Broadway performers) featured Telly Leung, who graduated from the Musical Theatre program at CMU last year (Go Tartans!). The show began within reasonable striking distance of the appointed time, which was 2:30pm.
The Graduate, set in the 1960s, is the story of Benjamin Braddock (John Lavelle [Hes a Broadway newbie, isnt that cute?!]), a recent college graduate. Rather than continuing his studies in graduate school, he finds himself embroiled in a lascivious affair with Mrs. Robinson (Lorraine Bracco [The Sopranos, Goodfellas]), the wife of his fathers long-term business partner and friend. Though sometimes awkward, this situation maintains itself without significant upset, until Benjamin meets and falls in love with Mrs. Robinsons daughter, Elaine (Andrea Anders [Proof on Broadway, and a variety of smaller productions at Rutgers and elsewhere]). Thats when the real fun begins.
Benjamin Braddock is a young man who just doesnt know what he wants. At least hes pretty much certain that its not whatever he has at the moment, since hes always dissatisfied. To be honest, Benjamin rather bugged me for a big chunk of the play, because hes so silly and immature about everything. He tends to handle problems by avoiding them whenever possible, rather than facing them head-on. Later in the play, though, he does seem to develop a backbone and a greater sense of self-determination. John Lavelle is quite good-looking, and the audience is repeatedly treated to the sight of his well-toned body concealed by nothing but a pair of white boxer-briefs. Yum! His comedic timing was right on the mark, and I enjoyed the way his tone of voice complemented sudden reversals in his characters responses. Overall, he conveyed just the right effect of an aw-shucks, not-too-bright, ridiculously naif kid, in way over his head.
Mrs. Robinson (Her first name is given in an early scene, but Im not sure what it was. Possibly Judith.) is an alcoholic sexpot with a rather low standard of morality. She is unhappy in her marriage, possibly due in part to the five years that have elapsed since the last time her husband made love to her. I suppose its only natural for her to be attracted to Benjamin, as he is quite a handsome young man. However, she is quite manipulative and domineering in their relationship. She behaves in the same way towards her daughter Elaine, and she basically disregards the societal norms of behavior at every turn. And not in a liberal, free-spirited sense, but rather in a cynical, burnt-out sort of way. Lorraine Bracco was brilliant in this role. She pulled off a deep, gravelly voice, and an arrogant, swaggering way of moving. Also, she got naked. Yeah, naked. In an early scene, Mrs. Robinson emerges from Benjamins bathroom, clad only in a towel. She then drops the towel (thus becoming naked, in full view of the audience) and tells Benjamin that he may call her at any time to arrange an affair, if he is so inclined. Naked!
Elaine is a rather sensitive young woman, who has made very few decisions on her own. Rather, her lifes path has basically been determined by her parents. She behaves as though she knows exactly what she wants (in contrast to Benjamin, who definitely does not), but in actuality it is what her parents want for her. Andrea Anders is a cute girl, who plays a realistic reaction to the somewhat preposterous situation into which her character has been thrust. She demonstrates an excellent grasp of shocked outrage, as well as defiance in the face of her own confused indecision.
Incidentally, my understanding is that these three performers replaced the original cast just two weeks ago. They were Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone. I sort of would have liked to have seen them in it, but ah, well.
There were several additional characters and actors. Mark Blum and Kate Skinner appeared as Benjamins parents, who are not at all in touch with their sons needs. Colin Stinton was quite good as Mr. Robinson, who is pretty much a pompous and obnoxious oaf who doesnt deserve half as much woman as he has in his wife. There was a real cutie in the cast named Ben Feldman, who filled bit roles along with a few other minor performers.
I have not mentioned as much, but Id imagine that most of you are aware of the fact that the play The Graduate is based on a 1967 movie of the same name. I should point out that the play was not a scene-by-scene transfer of the movie. Far from it, in fact. The second act is really completely different from the movie, so people who have seen the movie should not feel that they would be wasting their time by seeing the play.
The set was very interesting. It consisted of three stationary flats on the sides and back, and a fourth that was lowered and raised in the front at various points. All were solid white and apparently composed of doors. These doors were closed and opened at different times to reveal different closets or rooms behind them. This was pretty cool. In addition, one of the slats tilted over to form the skylight in Benjamins apartment in the second act.
Speaking of the acts, and how there were two of them: They were separated by a fifteen minute intermission. First, I took the opportunity to use the bathroom. That same woman was positioned near the steps to remind everyone that Bathrooms are located downstairs. God, that woman must see existence as nothing but a hopeless abyss. After I had relieved myself, I decided to get a drink. You see, I turned 21 just two weeks ago, so theres still a novelty element to ordering alcoholic beverages. I ordered my favorite drink, an Amaretto Sour. Now, Im not really up on my bar etiquette, but it seems to me that theres generally not a convenient way to ascertain the price of a drink before ordering it. If there is one, then for the love of Jeebus please tell me! Anyway, I ordered my drink, and it turned out to cost seven dollars. SEVEN DOLLARS!!! I mean, sweet Moses on a pogo stick! The drink was fine; its pretty damn hard to mess up an Amaretto Sour. But the cost was absolutely unjustifiable. I ordered one at a hotel during the afterparty for a friends a cappella concert, and I paid $4.50. That was at least reasonable. So my recommendation is that you absolutely do not, under any circumstances, purchase a beverage at the Plymouth Theatre. Sneak in a water bottle instead.
The plays soundtrack was pleasant. It was dominated by instrumental versions of some Simon and Garfunkel tunes, but it also included some Beach Boys, as well as Mammas and the Pappas, both with vocals. Effective, mood-setting 㣠s stuff, I suppose. At the very end of the performance, the full version of Mrs. Robinson was played.
Speaking of the end of the performance (Gee, is it a poor stylistic choice to use the same transitional device twice in one composition like that?), it was followed by a bit of an extra. After the curtain calls, John Lavelle (Benjamin Braddock) took center stage and told us about the excellent work done by the Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS charity organization. He told us that performers from the show would be at the exits with buckets, ready to accept our donations. Then, he told us that he was going to auction off a towel. Not just a towel, though. The towel. The towel that Lorraine Bracco wore on her naked, naked body during the afternoons performance. The towel was ultimately bought for $500 by the woman sitting two seats down from me, who told those of us within earshot that she had gone to high school with Ms. Bracco. Throughout the proceedings, John Lavelle was quite entertaining. The actors left the stage, and we got up to go. I dashed downstairs to use the bathroom again, and by the time I got back upstairs I was disappointed to find that even though the theatre was still half full of people, the actors with buckets had retired backstage. I had been hoping to flash my winning smile at either one of the cute male actors. Ah, well.
So, in the final analysis, seeing The Graduate was an enjoyable way in which to pass an afternoon. The play was a distinct entity from the excellent movie that inspired it, and featured its own strong cast and characters. And, of course: Lorraine Bracco, naked!