Magazine article Newsweek

Theater: Hiss, Family Robinson: 'The Graduate' Hits Broadway-And Flunks Out

Magazine article Newsweek

Theater: Hiss, Family Robinson: 'The Graduate' Hits Broadway-And Flunks Out

Article excerpt

Byline: Marc Peyser

I want to say one word about the Broadway production of "The Graduate." Plastic. Not the plastic that inspired the line in the 1967 movie where Benjamin Braddock received the most hilariously misbegotten career advice ever offered to a young college graduate. We're talking plastic as in synthetic, lifeless, fake, a lightweight imitation. Not since "Sweet Smell of Success"--wait, that was only last month. Not since "The Full Monty"--wait, that was only last year. OK, rarely in the long history of botched Broadway adaptations has a play so thoroughly trampled on its celluloid source and turned it into such an irrelevant muddle. At least Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson towers above the mess--and not just when she drops her towel for a nude scene. Whether full-frontal Turner is actually a selling point is something you'll have to decide for yourself.

Perhaps the most confounding part of Broadway's "The Graduate" is that writer-director Terry Johnson has completely misunderstood--or ignored--what made Mike Nichols's movie a classic. The film explored two lost generations of the 1960s: young adults (like Dustin Hoffman's Benjamin) disillusioned by their parents' country-club lives, and middle-aged women (Anne Bancroft's Mrs. Robinson) who had played by the rules and hated themselves for it. The play takes that dynamic--and the older woman/younger man affair that is its highly combustible byproduct--and turns it into a comic soap opera, complete with jokes about oral sex, hippie shrinks and outdated fashion. …

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