“The Graduate” became a classic film after its release 50 years ago. Now Palo Alto Players is presenting the stage version.

It features Max Tachis as 20-year-old Benjamin Braddock, the role made famous by Dustin Hoffman in the film. Betsy Kruse Craig plays his older seducer, Mrs. Robinson, portrayed by Anne Bancroft in the film.

The plot is basically the same. Benjamin has returned home after recently graduating from college and receiving a scholarship for grad school, leading to a teaching career.

He doesn’t know what he really wants to do except that he wants to be left alone. Hence, he refuses to join the party thrown by his wealthy parents, played by Shawn Bender and Raegena Raymond-Brunker, because the guests are their friends, not his.

Mrs. Robinson comes into his room and tries to seduce him then. They wind up having an affair.

In the meantime, he reluctantly goes on a date with her daughter, Elaine (Michelle Skinner). He gradually falls in love with her, but she rejects him after learning of his affair with her mother.

He later pursues to her Cal, where she’s a senior. After much consternation on the part of everyone involved, they have a quickie marriage, but what then?

No one except maybe Elaine comes out looking good, in part because no one is very happy. This production, directed by Jeanie K. Smith, underlines that point with generally one-dimensional performances.

Even though Benjamin is a young man searching for himself, Tachis sometimes makes him come across as merely shallow and whiny.

Bender as his father and Mark Novak as Mr. Robinson have too many blustery moments, while Raymond-Brunker overdoes Mrs. Braddock’s ups and downs.

Craig has the strongest stage presence as Mrs. Robinson despite the character’s many flaws.

The play was adapted by Terry Johnson from a novel by Charles Webb and the screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.

Another memorable aspect of the film was the score featuring songs by Simon and Garfunkel. Several of them are heard and enjoyed in Gordon Smith’s sound design.

The sparse but flexible set is by Nikolaj Sorensen with sometimes murky lighting by Kedar Lawrence and costumes by Kathleen Qiu.

Despite its shortcomings, this production has its highlights, especially some of the humor that comes through.

It runs about two hours with one intermission.

It will continue through July 2 at the Lucie Stern Theater, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.


About the Author

Judy RichterJudy reviews San Francisco Bay Area theater and writes feature articles about activities of the Stanford women's basketball team and Fast Break Club. A longtime Bay Area journalist, she is retired from the San Francisco Chronicle, where she was a writer and copy editor.View all posts by Judy Richter →