Filling shoes that Dustin Hoffman made famous is no mean feat.
But taking those shoes and polishing them into something brand-new and shiny is an even more challenging task — one that the cast of director Michael Disher's "The Graduate", which is in its final weekend at the , performs with heart and panache.
The film that inspired the staged version of "The Graduate" is deeply entrenched in the American consciousness. Hoffman's name will be forever synonymous with the character of new college graduate Benjamin Braddock, a young man on the brink of adulthood and already balancing precariously on the precipice of disillusionment.
In the stage adaptation being performed in Southampton, Vincent Carbone plays Braddock with a winning mix of wide-eyed wonder, world weary disenchantment, and youthful ardor. When he meets his Mrs. Robinson, played by Brooke Alexander in a performance marked by subtle sensuality as smooth as languid sweet bourbon, Carbone draws his audience in as he falters at first in the face of Mrs. Robinson's skillful bold seduction.
Despite his best intentions — and his innate sense of wanting something more substantial than just a sexy romp — Carbone's Benjamin finds himself tangled in an increasingly more complicated web of seduction. Torn between his raging carnal desires and deeply ingrained moral compass, Carbone brings depth and indecision into a character that could easily have become a caricature of passion-fueled adolescence.
Perhaps most compelling about this adaptation of "The Graduate," which was written originally as a novel by Charles Webb, and transformed into a stage production by Terry Johnson, is the marked delineation between the first and second acts.
The former delves into the dark world of illicit affairs, broken promises, and unrealized dreams, as Mrs. Robinson drowns her sorrows over a husband who never sings anymore and a broken marriage in alcohol and meaningless embraces, dragging Benjamin into the maelstrom of her discontent.
But it is in the second act, when Benjamin falls head-over-heels in love with Mrs. Robinson's daughter, Elaine, played with heart-aching tenderness and sass by the always compelling Bethany Dellapolla — when Dellapolla graces a stage, all eyes are drawn to the genuine heart she brings to her characters — that "The Graduate" truly comes alive and sings with wit, emotion and passion.
Music effectively echoes the 1960s as tunes including Simon & Garfunkel "The Sounds of Silence" and, of course, "Mrs. Robinson," are played throughout the performance. Stand-out performances of note also include Seth Hendricks, as the smoldering and scorned Mr. Robinson, and Barbara Jo Howard, who plays Benjamin's mother with spot-on despair as she blames herself for her son's derailed dreams.
Disher's "The Graduate" is reborn as a dazzling slice of wit, heart, and desire. Don't miss it.
Remaining showtimes are 7 p.m. on Thursday, 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 5 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is $22. Students younger than 21 with ID are $12. For information call 631-287-4377 or buy tickets online.