'The Graduate'

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For those who wondered how Benjamin Braddock and Mrs. Robinson looked without their clothes or what they did together at the Taft Hotel, this play's for you.

Terry Johnson's adaptation of the celebrated 1967 film is a warts-and-all retelling of "The Graduate" that distills the story to its blackest, barest essence. Jules Aaron's direction zeroes in on the shallowness and hypocrisy of Benjamin's and Elaine's parents, often turning them into cartoons.

Mrs. Robinson (Kelly Lloyd), in particular, gets a thorough going-over. The lady is a tramp, a bitch and a very bad parent, married to a man (Jim Keily) who is even less sympathetic. As for Benjamin's clueless folks (Cindy Yantis and Jerry Lloyd), let's just say it's a tossup as to which set of parents is more disagreeable.

That's all the more reason the play needs a special actor in the lead role. Benjamin's ordinariness should be part of his charm: He's confused and passive, but his struggle to break free of his suffocating past should enlist our sympathy partly because he vows to become a more interesting person.

But Ben Campbell plays Benjamin straight and earnest, without a subtle comic touch. Nor is there much chemistry between Benjamin and poor, betrayed Elaine (Michelle Exarhos), Mrs. Robinson's dutiful daughter. One gets the impression that two or three weeks after these two flee the church together, they will go their separate ways. (partialdiff)
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