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Home Arts and Culture  Curtain call: The curious case of Benjamin Braddock
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Wednesday, November 6,2013

Curtain call: The curious case of Benjamin Braddock

LCC succeeds in seducing with adaptation of ‘The Graduate’

by Tom Helma
Mike Nichols’ 1967 movie adaptation of Charles Webb’s novel “The Graduate” was a scathing send-up of the existential emptiness of the lost-in-the-‘50s generation. The emerging Boomers celebrated it as the beginning of something new, revolutionary — the Age of Aquarius, no less. Benjamin Braddock, played by a youthful Dustin Hoffman, was the metaphorical innocent Adam, archetypal white male of privilege, who, after graduating from college on his parents’ dime, has come to a point of no return: the yawning abyss of the rest of his life out side the walls of their protective suburban Garden of Eden.

Terry Johnson’s stage adaptation of this story, as performed by Lansing Community College under the direction of John Lepard, barely references this historical context. It strips the tale down to more of a character-driven triangulation in which Braddock (Scott Laban) is a naive but horny boy-toy, encountering the iconic, Mrs. Robinson (Deb Keller). Benjamin doesn’t eat the apple; he is the embodiment of the apple eaten by a voracious hot-pants cougar-mama dominatrix-bitch.

Keller brings a muscular sensuality to the role of Mrs. Robinson, merging the hyper-crisp articulations of the boozy alcoholic with the fully ripened curvaceous snakelike dance of a slinky-toy Salome. Laban is endearingly sweet, morphing J.D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield onto a graft of an awkward adolescent Woody Allen, stammering and stuttering his way dizzyingly through seductive foreplay with Keller. Keller, whose character always seems to know exactly what she wants, moves across the stage with a commanding sinuous presence, drunk and delirious with her power over Braddock. She’s not so much the aging trophy wife as she is the Hemingway lion killer.

Then, to make it all right, Benjamin redeems himself by choosing true love over titillating lust, falling madly in love with her innocent, college-age daughter, Elaine (Clearie McCarthy) who is clearly not her mother’s daughter. She is bright, young and has not been harmed emotionally by her mother’s multiple addictions; she will emerge as a bright hope for the future, potentially a lifelong partner for Braddock. Together, they symbolize that late ‘60s generation’s brightest hopes — they would “walk off to look for America.”

While LCC’s production of “The Graduate” is spare and at times perhaps overly simplified, acting and stage direction is top-notch, making the play well worth seeing.

“The Graduate”

Lansing Community College Through Saturday, Nov. 9 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Nov. 8-9 $15/$10 seniors, LCC staff and alumni/$5 students. Dart Auditorium, 500 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing. (517) 483-1488 lcc.edu/showinfo

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