The Graduate Receives Low Marks at Bloomsburg

It all began with an empty stage. The dimmed lights cast an emptiness on the audience, watching a set of microphones curiously scattered throughout the empty stage. When the actors came on and the show began, still the emptiness prevailed.

The light cast a dim shadow on the back wall just behind a prop table, crowded with knick-knacks, wine bottles, boxes, and shoes. The microphones shaped the risers upward in a V, further drawing the audience’s eyes back to the table.

Of course, you never really know what to expect when you walk into a theatre, but for a live performance, this arrangement especially perplexed the audience. LA Theatre Works is a radio theatre troupe, so when they perform on stage, actors attempt to bridge the gap between radio and traditional theatre.

Like all radio shows, that prop table became the sound board, where the audience witnessed the noise of zipper or the pounding of an axe brought to life through tact and innovation. Seeing the sounds created in real time was often more intriguing than the actors’ performances.

As you may suspect, the microphone holds all the power in radio, so The Graduate cast would enter the stage, face forward, and utter their lines straight into the microphone when on stage. There was little interaction between characters on stage besides the occasional glance at each other. Each actor stayed in their zone, directing their energy towards the audience rather than to their fellow actors. This style of acting crafted the basis for the charismatic two-hour read-through of a script which became The Graduate.

If you had not read the book, which became the basis for the play, then this plot was difficult to grasp. The script, jagged and rushed, rarely explained the frequent time jumps from scene to scene. The scrambling illuminated the inherent differences between the original text and this performance: while Charles Webb crafted a complex story in his 1963 novel, The Graduate, theatrical adaptations find difficulty conveying its subtleties in a fixed time frame.

The Graduate was performed by LA Theatre Works at Bloomsburg University as part of the school’s Celebrity Artist Series on Nov. 15. Currently on tour, the show chronicles the troubles of Benjamin Braddock, grappling with life after college as he has an affair with the wife of his father’s business partner.

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