‘The Graduate’ one of Piedmont’s best productions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Deirdre Parker Smith
Salisbury Post
“And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson.”
Ketti Overcash, playing that infamous role, earned the robust applause at the opening night of “The Graduate.”
And so did the rest of the Piedmont Players cast, especially young CaLeb Hill, who gave a funny, mature, sensitive performance as confused Benjamin Braddock in this tale of ’60s middle-class angst.
If you saw the movie starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, you know the story of a bored alcoholic wife seducing her neighbor’s bored son. And bored son later falling in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter.
If you didn’t the see the movie, all the more reason to see the play. The small cast gave a spot-on performance, blending well together, inhabiting their characters and not just repeating the lines.
It’s good to have regulars like Overcash and Bob Paolino (Benjamin’s father) on hand and great to see the tremendous potential of newcomer Hill.
Bill Greene, appropriately blustery as Mr. Robinson, is also a newcomer, and does a fine job moving from snobby drunk to cuckolded man. There’s so much potential to go over the top in this role, and he managed to rein it in.
Another bright spot, although her role is brief, was Marnie Stoker as Mrs. Braddock.
Caitlin Hughes, making her first appearance as an adult in a Piedmont show, has the naivete of Elaine, and the right amount of exasperation with her unloving mother and her bossy father. She actually seemed to fit the role better than Katharine Ross in the 1967 movie.
But comparisons are unfair. This play is adapted from the movie, which was adapted from the novel of the same name. The structure of the play is very cinematic, with many short scenes.
It helps to have Simon and Garfunkel and The Beach Boys and a handful of other 1960s music icons singing during the scene changes. Many in the opening night audience sang along.
This is no show for the kids, so get a babysitter and watch the poignant, funny story unfold. Overcash, who has limited her biography in the playbill to “Jesus loves you more than you will know,” is tailor-made for this role. She gets it ó the boredom and desperation, the yearning to feel alive again.
The awkward first encounter with Benjamin is painfully funny. Hill and Overcash work so well together, they must truly believe in the relationship. And then Benjamin is so helplessly in love with Elaine, despite his own darkness. Hill gets that, too.
Paolino and Stoker make as good a couple as Overcash and Greene ó two sides of upper middle class marriages, four portraits of people who really don’t believe in anything anymore.
Overcash’s own daughter, Ivy, will play Elaine Saturday night only. That should be an interesting show.
The only flaw opening night was volume. All the cast, excepting Overcash and Greene, need to project a little more. Oh, and Hill should learn to wait for the laugh before going to the next line. He’ll get a longer laugh that way.
Director and designer Reid Leonard has pulled together a fine production, one of the best in recent memory. Go see it.
“The Graduate,” underwritten by Wachovia Bank and Busby and Webb Orthodontics, continues tonight and Saturday and May 21-24 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 18, at 2:30 p.m. at the Meroney Theater. For tickets, call 704-633-5471.