Monday, April 15, 2013

Theater Review: Repertory Philippines' The Graduate Starring Pinky Marquez & Reb Atadero

I wasn't born yet when the 1963 novel by Charles Webb, The Graduate, came out nor when it was adapted for the big screen four years later by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham. Just now, I read that it starred Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, and Katharine Ross and is 17th on the list of the American Film Institute's Greatest Movies of All Time.


The thing is, I've never had a chance to see that movie all these years and didn't even connect it with the song Mrs. Robinson that was popularized by The Beatles but which was originally sung by Simon and Garfunkel. I also never bothered knowing what the story was all about, which made me all the more unprepared for the things I heard and saw when I watched Repertory Philippines' staging of The Graduate.

The story is a hilarious, satirical look at middle-class disillusionment and social more. Finally, I now know that it's about Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who was seduced by his parents' friend, Mrs. Robinson. In an ironic twist of fate, he finds himself falling hopelessly in love with her daughter, Elaine.

Mrs. Robinson
Selected in 1996 by the US National Film Institute as being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant,” the movie went on to become the 21st highest-grossing film in the US and Canada. It also featured the American Film Institute’s 6th most popular movie theme song in the history of American Cinema, forever cementing the film in American popular culture.

Elaine and Benjamin
In 2002, new life was breathed into the story when Terry Johnson adapted The Graduate for the stage. The theatrical production, which starred Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone, ran in London’s West End, on Broadway, and on tour all over the United States.

Benjamin and his dad
This year, Repertory Philippines finally brings The Graduate to Manila. Veteran director, playwright, and actor Jaime del Mundo (Shakespeare In Hollywood; The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe; Little Mermaid) directs the play and adds his own unique touch of wit, charm, and edge to this well-loved comedy. 

Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson
Heading the cast is multi-talented theater icon Pinky Marquez (No Way To Treat A Lady; Katy: The Musical) as the iconic “cougar” Mrs. Robinson. Sharing the stage with her are versatile up-and-comers Reb Atadero (Altar Boyz; They’re Playing Our Song) as the hapless Benjamin Braddock and Cara Barredo (Little Women; Rivalry: The Musical) as the charming and innocent Elaine Robinson. Rounding out the cast are theater veterans Jeremy Domingo, Angela Padilla, Natalie Everett, Joel Trinidad, and show director Jaime del Mundo.

Elaine and her dad
I've been watching theater plays for years but, I would say The Graduate tops my "most shocking" list by far. Perhaps because I was really surprised that Ms. Pinky confidently shed off ALL her clothes in one scene, among other rated R moments. What's impressive about the cast, especially those who had to show skin, is that they performed their roles so well and so artistically. Reb, most of all, made me laugh so much because he was very, very convincing during a scene where he had to appear confused, shocked, and slightly hysterical (yep, that was when Mrs. Robinsons appeared in his bedroom in her birthday suit).

Cara, one of theater's versatile young actresses, transformed herself from the images of characters (e.g. Wendy of Peter Pan and Dorothy of Wizard of Oz) she played before to her first adult role where she had to also shed some of her clothes on stage. When I commented on this big change, she jokingly said that she is actually the real graduate in this production. I look forward to seeing her grow more in her craft.

With a hilarious script, masterful direction, and brilliant performances led by Ms. Pinky, The Graduate is sure to seduce audiences all over again. You will regret it if you don't watch this one! 

So catch Repertory Philippines' presentation of  The Graduate on April  27 (Sat) at 8pm and on April 28 (Sun) 3:30pm at Onstage Greenbelt 1 in Makati. Tickets are priced at Php1,200.00; Php1000.00, Php800.00 and Php500.00. Call 2150788 or 09175378313 or email for reservations. Please take note that this show is FOR ADULTS ONLY.

* To see more photos I took (with permission), please visit this Facebook album.

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