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SRT Earns High Marks With ‘The Graduate’

If you wonder how well the iconic 1960’s movie classic “The Graduate” translates into a live theatre experience remember we are talking about Sierra Repertory Theatre here.

The Mother Lode’s own professional theatre company continues to deliver an impressive range of shows from fun musicals (Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” and the world premiere of “Sh-Boom A Christmas Miracle” are both opening in the coming weeks) and arty works (like Stephen Sondheim’s “Sunday in the Park with George”) to who-dun-it mysteries (such as “Clue”), and edgy works (the recent production of the Stephen King novel-based psychological thriller “Misery,” for example).

Through Oct. 29 the Fallon House Theatre stage at Columbia State Historic Park provides a portal to the ’60s that is not so swingin’ you will see hippies or protest signs but nearly every set does contain a bed; after all, “The Graduate” is as much about seduction as rebellion against “the Establishment.”

Dustin Hoffman in what became a star-making movie role for him perfectly embodied the awkward grace and internal turmoil of privileged and newly minted college graduate Benjamin Braddock. The young man realizes he despises not only what he has worked so hard to achieve in his pampered, sheltered life thus far, but also the looming career track ahead because these things stand for everything that his materialistic parents value, have and want for him. SRT cast John Wascavage, in his debut with the theatre company, successfully captures very similar vibes that worked for Hoffman. Wascavage himself, has toured internationally, and wrote and appears in his own web series “What A Drag” on Amazon Prime.

Anne Bancroft famously played Mrs. Robinson in the film although biologically a good ten years-plus younger than her alluring, seductive middle-aged housewife character, infusing her with a taunting, coldly bitter nature and a predatory power that actor Natasha Hause personifies in her first SRT role. Hause, a four-time World Broadway Award winner and master class instructor, delivers a riveting performance that provides a perfect foil for Wascavage and also for West Coast actor and educator Allie Pratt, who plays Elaine.

As the Robinsons’ effervescent, Berkeley College attending daughter (played in the movie by Katharine Ross), Pratt’s performance is endearing and at times quite comedic as her goody two shoes character meets and kindles romantic flames with Benjamin; discovers her mom is not only his lover but a vengeful person who does not have her back; learns to discern between decisions and paths chosen for her versus what she really wants for herself.

As Mr. Robinson, Matt K Miller, an SRT regular who recently appeared as Col. Mustard in “Clue,” is entertaining and solid as the seemingly worldly, know-it-all longtime friend and business partner of Ben’s dad, Mr. Braddock. Local actors and life-partners Don Bilotti and Maryann Curmi are hilariously slaptick in their hapless roles as Ben’s parents. SRT company members Sergio Salinas, Jr. and Megan Evans adeptly handle various cameo roles.

“The Graduate,” adapted for the stage by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and movie screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, is directed by SRTs Executive Producer Scott Viets with set design by Tijana Bjelajac, costumes by Austin Blake Conlee, lighting by Liz Schweitzer, and sound by Tatiana Covington-Parra. Evening performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays with 2 p.m. matinees Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and noontime ones on Wednesdays. For more info and tickets, go to https://www.sierrarep.org. Check out our Theatre section here.

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