The Graduate | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Graduate 

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THE GRADUATE, Shubert Theatre. Stick to the film. For one thing you'll hear more than a snippet of "Mrs. Robinson." That song is only part of what's missing from Terry Johnson's emotionally uncertain script, derived from Charles Webb's 1962 novel and Mike Nichols's justly praised 1967 film.

In Peter Lawrence's post-Broadway touring production there's little chemistry between earnestly ordinary Jonathan C. Kaplan as protoslacker Benjamin and Lorraine Bracco (of The Sopranos) as the lonely, predatory mother of his girlfriend. Despite plenty of nudity and explicit sex, Kaplan's disillusionment is strictly by the numbers, and Bracco's whiskey-raspy delivery and drunken deadpan wear thin. For all the daughter's flaky bimbosity, she's worth more than both put together, and as played by Devon Sorvari she has a dignity that cries out for a better script.

A prime flaw is the wildly varying emotional tone of Johnson's adaptation. A wrenching scene in which Mr. Robinson and Benjamin's father revile the young man incongruously yields to a vapid comic sketch involving a guru psychiatrist. Worst is the new ending. Crudely melodramatic, it involves Mr. Robinson swinging an axe, Mrs. Robinson being dismissed as a bitch, and a cornball reunion between the youthful lovers over a bowl of Froot Loops.

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