Review: ‘The Graduate’ at The Winnipesaukee Playhouse

Angelica Potter

‘The Graduate’ is a play adapted by Terry Johnson based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry. Most people can recall the film version that launched Dustin Hoffman to super stardom fifty years ago and has since become a cinematic classic. This “coming of age” comedic drama is the story of Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate, who is struggling with what he wants to do next, where he wants to go and who he really wants to become. Though he comes from an affluent family, and may appear to have everything going for him, he feels lost with no direction and no connection. His encounter with a family friend, the older Mrs. Robinson, starts him on a path of rebellion; rebellion against everything he has ever known, and in search of himself. In the end he may not have a clearer understanding of his career path, but he has a better understanding of himself, of other people, and how he wants his future life to be different from his past.

Under the sharp eye of director Samantha Tella, this eight-person cast, delves into their characters and brings to life a story most audience members may have previously only seen on screen. The result is a funny, realistic, and touching production that audience members clearly enjoyed. The design elements of the production were simple, with clean, sharp lines in both the architecture of the set, as well as the costumes, thus allowing for the humorous language of the script and performances of the actors to shine.

Outshining all the rest were the two young actors playing Benjamin Braddock and Elaine Robinson: John-Michael Breen and Kelley Davies. Together they were delightful to watch, fully engaging with one another with their eye contact and authentic character connection. Their rocky relationship was at times amusing, at times fierce, but always completely heartfelt. Their journey from two young people being set up on a date by their parents and dreading it, through Benjamin falling crazy in love with Elaine and following her back to school so he can propose, to Elaine making a difficult decision moments before saying “I do”, was wonderfully performed.

Breen’s comedic timing was spot on throughout the production. Even in the midst of changing costumes (many times) on stage while carrying on a conversation, his character never dropped. He was entirely believable as a college graduate finding his way and rebelling against what he believed everyone else expected his life to become. His interactions with his parents, played by Richard Brundage and Pam Schnatterly, were familiarly amusing to many in the audience. Breen was strong in portraying Benjamin’s ever-changing feelings about his dramatic affair with the seductive Mrs. Robinson, played by Molly Parker Myers, and he aptly showed the complexity and confusion of his characters’ emotional and mental state during much of the play.

As Elaine, Davies was stunning and displaying a wide range of confusing emotions as her character dealt with her mother’s affair, falling in love, trying to please other people, being a college student, and finding her own voice and ultimately, her own path. There were many moments when Davies captured the audiences’ attention; completely charming them by her performance. One instance that stands out was when she was fighting with Benjamin and let out a bloodcurdling scream. In this moment, it was as if the audience didn’t exist and Elaine and Benjamin were alone in the room arguing about getting married. In this role, Davies delivers not only one of the best performances in this production, but of the Winnipesaukee Playhouse Summer Season overall.

Needless to say, Breen and Davies were absolutely perfectly cast in these roles and their performances are not to be missed!

The cast is rounded out with more admirable performances including Ray Dudley, as Mr. Robinson, passionate about business and seemingly less so about his wife, yet after learning of his wife’s affair, comes across as a very realistic, poignantly sad and pitiful man. Also in the cast is Playhouse favorite Nicholas Wilder, playing multiple roles including, in a very funny scene, a desk clerk who is overly attached to his bell. Shanel Sparr, and the previously mentioned Pam Schnatterly, Richard Brundage and Molly Parker Myers complete the cast. ©

‘The Graduate’ plays at the Winnipesaukee Playhouse until August 12th with performances Mondays through Saturdays at 7:30pm and a 2pm Matinee on August 7th. There are no Sunday performances. Tickets range from $20-$34 and are selling quickly. Please note this production contains brief nudity in addition to its mature content. For additional information and tickets visit


Special Events from the Education Department:

Tuesday, August 8th at
Join us for an enlightening conversation led by an expert in a field connected to the production.
6pm – Symposium

Wednesday, August 9th -
Following the performance, you’re invited for an informal discussion with the cast and creative team.

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Photo Credit: The Winnipesaukee Playhouse.