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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Don Church and Tony Schillaci reviews for

By Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Critics On The Aisle

The venerable Ivoryton Playhouse’s second offering of the 2012 season is “The Graduate.”  It is successfully adapted from the hit 1967 movie by Terry Johnson, and the story translates smoothly to the stage for contemporary adult audiences while remaining true to the spirit of the film.

A caveat in the program reads “there will be smoking and nudity in this show,” albeit those elements are in realistic doses, without being gratuitous.  The language is by today’s standards tame while still being explicit, so this is definitely not a play for the kiddies.

Judith Lightfoot Clarke as the alcoholic Mrs. Robinson and Luke Guldan as a naïve, confused Benjamin Braddock work so well together that once they first confront each other, alone on the stage, it’s almost possible to forget the original stars of the movie Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman. The actors creatively interpret the characters anew, not in imitation of the acclaimed movie’s leads.

Ms. Clarke is physically perfect in the part and also brings an effective icy brittleness to Mrs. Robinson. Young Mr. Guldan, a superb actor and eye-candy scrumptious, gives Benjamin the necessary vulnerability and nervous sexual innocence while trying to impress his relentless seducer of a worldliness that is just transparent bravado. Theyconvincingly carry the show from start to final curtain. Brava and bravo to these two gifted and charismatic actors.

Peter Cormican, as the blustery Mr. Robinson, gets everything out of his characterization as Benjamin’s self-appointed career advisor and his daughterElaine’s protective father.  He convincingly goes from hale-fellow-well-met joviality to raging anger. It shows his broad-range from comedy to drama and he nearly walks away with the play as he fills the stage with his dynamic aura.

The stage set by Tina Louise Jones is minimalistic on first viewing, but soon reveals how cleverly designed it is for timely scene changes: a closet door here, a bathroom door there, a bed sliding out of the wall and venetian blinds representing morning and night, Ms. Jones allows the watcher to see beyond the stage and to imagine a downstairs party or an outdoor swimming pool.  The set is also quickly transformed into a strip club, a church, and a hotel room with effective use of simple shapes, colors and furnishings.

Lisa Marie Harry (Costume Design) and Joel Silvestro (Hair and Wigs) do justice to the kind-of-goofy styles of California 1964, and Mrs. Robinson and Benjamin look good both in and out of clothing.  Elaine’s outfits and Mrs. Braddock’s shift dresses are right on target.

Lighting by Marcus Abbot is mostly effective in serving both the comedic and the dramatic themes of the play, but in a scene between Benjamin and Elaine (Jess Brown), meant to be outside the club on a city street, their faces are unnecessarily often in shadow that doesn’t well serve the actors.

To create the ideal mood for scenes, the play opens with Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” and other music associated with the film production, including the chart-busting, international hit single, “Mrs. Robinson.”

Tate R. Burmeister keeps the sound of the Simon and Garfunkel score almost perfectly in sync with the action onstage.  The only time in which the music drowns out the dialogue is in a strip club scene. Tweaking the music to a lower volume would help the audience to fully comprehend the important exchange between Benjamin and Elaine.

Director Lawrence Thelen guides the mainly Actor’s Equity cast skillfully through the comedy, with only Benjamin’s Dad and Mom (Rik Walter and Victoria Bundonis) in need of more guidance to fully round out the comic aspects of their respective characters. Their caring but uptight and boring socially-correct parents of the 1960s need to get a few more laughs in counterpoint to the angst of their son, Benjamin.

Heather Gault, Jeffrey F. Wright II and Todd Little do excellent double and triple duty in numerous but less-than-large roles. As it has been stated for decades, there are no small parts in the theater and these three actors prove the point by never breaking character in their various guises on stage.

Those who have seen the movie may think that there isn’t a reason to see the play.  But this fast-paced, up-dated take on the story of “The Graduate” is fresh, funny and uninhibited for the sensibility of today’s adult audience.

Before we saw it in previews we thought that it might be ‘too risqué’ for the regular Ivoryton subscribers.  But we needn’t have been concerned – the audience seemed to have loved it.  Judge for yourself between now and May 8th by calling 860-767-7318 or logging on to Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main St., Ivoryton, CT.

After the show we raised our glasses and sang “Here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson!”



The classic coming-of-age movie “The Graduate” is enjoying a reincarnation from the novel to the stage, thanks to writers Calder Willingham and Buck Henry.  Until Sunday, May 6, the Ivoryton Playhouse will be “revealing” how Benjamin Braddock who should be ecstatic about completing four years of college at the top of his class and celebrating his achievements with his family and friends at a party in his honor is, instead, hiding in his bedroom, filled to the max with anxieties and insecurities.

Luke Guldan is wonderful as the angst-driven Ben, whose promising future everyone sees as golden except himself.  At this vulnerable junction in life, when he just has to select which perfectly paved road to pursue, there enters temptation in the form of Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his dad’s law partner.

Luke Guldan’s Benjamin is deliciously ripe for the picking and the older and wiser Mrs. Robinson has selected him for her treat of the month club.  First Judith Lightfoot Clarke’s Mrs. R. shocks him and then tantalizes and entices him to play her little game of seduction.

While his parents (Rik Walter and Victoria Bundonis) wait patiently for Ben to show signs of maturity, ambition and direction, he wanders farther and farther from any path of promise. When his dad and Mr. Robinson (Peter Cormican) contrive to have Ben date Elaine Robinson, a sweet and idealistic Jess Brown, who is home from Berkeley, the illicit deeds become fodder for a first class family feud.  To complicate an already “grotesque” situation. Ben and Elaine find themselves having real feelings for each other.

Completing the cast are Heather Gault as a stripper and bridesmaid, Jeffrey F. Wright II as a hotel clerk and groom and Todd Little as a priest and bartender.  Lawrence Thelen keeps a steady hand on the delicate balance of comedy and drama that drives the story.

For tickets ($40, seniors $35, students $20, children $15), call the Ivoryton Playhouse, 103 Main Street, Ivoryton at 860-767-7318 or online at  Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

For an education in seduction, look no further than master teacher Mrs. Robinson, whose classroom to date only has one willing student, Benjamin Braddock, enrolled.

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Just added – August 24th – Summer Children’s Theatre
Little Theatre of the Deaf – Stories in My Pocket Too

The Ivoryton Playhouse is delighted to announce the addition of a new program in our Summer Children’s Theatre series that offers a performance filled with stories, fables, signing fun and interactive improvisation.

Presented by the Little Theatre of the Deaf, the show begins with a sign language warm-up called Knowing the Ropes.  Ropes are used to actually teach sign language!  Next, six large, colorful pockets are brought on stage.  Each pocket contains a theme.  The audience is asked to choose a pocket and the actors perform what was picked.  Will it be signing fun or fables?  Whichever pocket is chosen, the Little Theatre of the Deaf will entertain, educate and enrapture.

Performance is 50 minutes.  Tickets are $12 each and the performance starts at 11:00am.  To book tickets, please call 860.767.7318. 

A poster for the production can be viewed by clicking here:  LTD Poster – 4-6-12

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Luke Guldan as Benjamin and Judith Lightfoot Clarke as Mrs. Robinson

Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson – The Graduate now open. 

Adapted from the movie by Terry Johnson

Ask anyone who grew up in this country in the last 75 years or more to name the most seductive older woman in their movie memory and I’ll bet you’ll find Mrs. Robinson’s name at the top of that list. She has become an American icon, immortalized not only in Mike Nichols brilliant movie but in the words of Paul Simon’s eponymous song. Now Mrs. Robinson is donning those famous heels and heading over to Ivoryton for the Ivoryton Playhouse’s production of The Graduate, opening on April 18 – May 6th.

It’s California in the 60s. Benjamin’s got excellent grades, very proud parents and, since he helped Mrs. Robinson with her zipper, a fine future behind him … A cult novel, a classic film, a quintessential hit of the 60s, now Benjamin’s disastrous sexual odyssey is brought vividly to life in this production.  This is the first play adaptation of the classic novel and film.  It premiered in April 2000 at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, starring Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson and later and came to Broadway in 2002.

Director Lawrence Thelen says, “The Graduate, the story of a promising young man fresh out of college trying to make sense and find meaning in a world for which he feels unprepared, is just as timely and relevant today as it was when it first appeared in the 1960s.  Certainly society has changed somewhat since then: technology has expanded, American morality has relaxed – in short, times are different – but it seems to me that the fear and anxiety every individual goes through when facing the world for the very first time, not as a protected child, but as adult, resonates with all of us.”

Stepping into those heels in the role of Mrs. Robinson is Judith Lighfoot Clark*.  Judith has performed in theatres all over the country.  It is a big change from a lot of her theatre work which has included Shakespeare.  Television work includes Kate & Allie, the MTV series What Goes On, and the Jimmy Smits pilot for NBC, Outlaw.
Luke Guldan’s take on the role of Benjamin Braddock is a little different to the one we are used to seeing with Dustin Hoffman.  Born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Luke is an accomplished athlete, nationally recognized for his achievements in health and fitness. The INBF “Mr. Fitness” in 2008 and 2009, Luke has been on the covers of and featured in magazines such as GQ, Men’s Health, Muscle & Fitness, Men’s Fitness and Cosmopolitan.  Luke has parlayed this success into television roles – thus children around the U.S. recognize him as Iron Man’s personal trainer from a Nicktoons TV commercial.  Luke has also appeared on TV in Gossip Girl, Royal Pains and The Colbert Report.

Directed by Lawrence Thelen , the set design is by Tina Louise Jones, lighting design by Marcus Abbott, sound by Tate R. Burmeister and costumes by LisaMarie Harry.

The Graduate opens on April 18th and runs through May 6th for 3 weeks.  Performance times are Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2pm.  Evening performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday at 8pm.  Tickets are $40 for adults, $35 for seniors, $20 for students and $15 for children and are available by calling the Playhouse box office at 860-767-7318 or by visiting our website at  (Group rates are available by calling the box office for information.)   The Playhouse is located at 103 Main Street in Ivoryton.   There is smoking and brief nudity in this play.

Members of the press are welcome at any performance.  Please call ahead for tickets.

*member of Actors Equity

Photos courtesy of Anne Hudson.

To purchase tickets for The Graduate please call our box office at 860.767.7318 or buy tickets on line through this website.

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