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Hamptons Life

Jul 17, 2012 10:04 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

'The Graduate' Review

Jul 17, 2012 11:01 AM

Sparks fly, and nearly everyone gets burned, when a young nihilist hooks up with a lascivious middle-aged alcoholic in “The Graduate,” now staging at the Southampton Cultural Center.

The story of the aimless recent college graduate, Benjamin Braddock, and his significantly older lover, Mrs. Robinson, is a familiar tale, told well in Michael Disher’s production starring Vincent Carbone and Brooke Alexander. In his staged version, Mr. Disher sets the action up nicely with the use of music from the period and place in which the play is set—1964 in California—including a few of the classic Simon & Garfunkel hits associated with the 1967 film directed by Mike Nichols and starring Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft and Katherine Ross.

In telling this tale of seduction, Mr. Disher smartly preps the scenes in this two-act play, which moved along snappily and entertainingly in just under two hours, with familiar tunes to move the plot along. On Friday night, the mood was set with the 1964 single “Little GTO” by Ronnie & the Daytonas. The show opened, fittingly, to the plaintive strains of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence.”

The action begins in young Benjamin’s bedroom. He looks ridiculous, wearing a wetsuit and flippers. After some hopeless cajoling from his parents to come downstairs and join his graduation party, Ben tries to retire alone.

No such luck.

Enter Mrs. Robinson—played to the hilt by the honey-throated and oh-so-watchable Ms. Alexander—who looks like she’s going to have Benjamin for dinner. As she’s setting the stage for seduction, she leers at the young man and tells him he “looks like a prophylactic.”

Growing increasingly uncomfortable as he learns that he is to be the prey of the “most attractive of all my parents’ friends,” Mr. Carbone, as Ben, is a good study of his more famous film predecessor.

“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me, aren’t you?” the befuddled, disillusioned and disturbed youth protests (sounding eerily like Mr. Hoffman) when his future lover’s devious ministrations become all too clear.

Pro that she is, Ms. Alexander dazzles through the first act with her sizzling, come-hither charm. Smoking a cigarette and looking like she wants to pounce on her inappropriately-aged lover, she steals the show whilst on stage.

Mr. Carbone really hits his stride in the second act. His best scene in the play is the first after intermission. Sitting on the bed and pacing the floor of his boarding house room as he tries to convince Elaine, played by Bethany Dellapolla, that she must marry him, the character’s most exasperated and anxiety-filled moments translate beautifully.

The banter between Mr. Carbone and Ms. Dellapolla is crackingly good in those short, tightly written scenes in the second act. Ms. Dellapolla, as the naive and unworldly Elaine, manages to not only show the audience that she is one smart cookie, but she also manages to make her “cute but morose” paramour a heck of a lot more likeable.

Though she is onstage briefly, Julia King also deserves mention for her flirtatious romp in her role as the stripper. This reviewer hopes to see more acting from the charming Ms. King in the future.

Seth Hendricks, always a favorite, does double duty as the bartender and Mr. Robinson in this show. He’s not on stage much but he makes the most of his time there, as always. And big points to whomever it was who had him reading the want ads from the Southampton Press during the strip club scene.

Another high point of the play occurs during the third scene in the second act when Barbara Jo Howard, as Ben’s overwrought mother, blames herself for her son’s not inconsequential flaws.

“It’s all my fault,” she wails about the mess her son has gotten himself into.

It’s been said that there are no small roles, only small actors. Also appreciated for their performances in less prominent roles in this production were John Tramontana as Mr. Braddock and Stewart Mead as the hotel clerk, psychiatrist and priest.

Bottom line: “The Graduate” is classic, funny and what dramatic comedy is all about.

“The Graduate” stages at the Southampton Cultural Center Thursdays through Sundays, through Sunday, July 29. Show times are 7 p.m. on Thursdays, 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $22. For more information or reservations, call 287-4377 or visit scc-arts.org.

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