REVIEW: ‘The Graduate,’ Top Honors for Griffith and Tag

Recent graduate, Benjamin Braddock (Nick Tag) refuses to attend his own graduation party. He hates his unclear future and the accolades his parents Mr. & Mrs. Braddock (Richard Burgi and Valerie Perri) bestow upon him. But when their next door neighbor Mrs. Robinson (Melanie Griffith) invites herself into Benjamin’s room that evening, she helps the overachiever forget all about his post-college blues.

Laguna Playhouse director Michael Matthews brilliantly retells this coming of age story guaranteed to have you spellbound from the moment Benjamin delivers his famous line “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me…aren’t you?

The Graduate (based on the novel by Charles Webb) was adapted for the big screen in 1967 and was considered a breakthrough role for Dustin Hoffman. The same could be said for up-and-coming actor (and Laguna Playhouse alum) Nick Tag, whom stars as the title character Benjamin Braddock in this all-new stage production.

Besides Tag, co-star Melanie Griffith plays an instrumental part behind the success of this reworking. The 60-year old actress (best known for her illustrious film career) is also a natural on stage. Even though her cradle-snatching character is unscrupulous by heart, she manages to win audiences over by adding fragility and vulnerability to Mrs. Robinson.

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Melanie Griffith and Nick Tag star in “The Graduate” at the Laguna Playhouse

The cast also features Broadway’s Gregory Butler and regional theatre favorites Geoffrey Lower, Joey Fabrizi, John Massey and Laguna Playhouse newcomer Martha Magruder as Elaine, Mrs. Robinson’s optimistic daughter.

To recreate the sights and sounds of the 1960’s, Los Angeles based scenic designer Stephen Gifford used muted hues and bold wood accents in his sets for a classic, retro vibe. For the montage sequences, sound designer Mike Ritchey remixed familiar tunes like Petula Clark’s “Downtown” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson,” which was written for the original film.

Though considered a “romantic comedy,” playwright Terry Johnson’s adaptation feels more dark than comedic. Sure, you will encounter a few laughs along the way, but the real turn-on is Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin’s seductive cat-and-mouse game that truly makes the grade.

The Graduate is playing at the Laguna Playhouse now through March 25, 2018. Tickets are available by calling the box office at (949) 497-ARTS (2787) or Order Online

Photos courtesy of Ed Krieger

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