After Sunset Series Continues with ‘The Graduate’
By Stephanie Harte
Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Sunset Playhouse
When solidifying the 2017-2018 season, the Sunset Playhouse staff decided to spice things up with a brand new series of shows. The After Sunset Studio Series brings patrons edgy dramas and musicals not possible on the community theater’s main stage.
“The black box studio space is perfect for these shows that are meant to be a little more intimate and experimental,” Michael Pocaro says. “Sunset has to make some safer choices to meet ticket sales for their main stage shows, but this series will help bring in a broader range of audiences.”
The first production to kick off the After Sunset Series was Phantasies Such as These, which included six tales of terror by Edgar Allen Poe, performed in a reader’s theatre style last October. Pocaro directed and adapted the show and shares that he was thrilled to bring some of the familiar Poe classics, like The Raven and The Tell Tale Heart, to Sunset along with some of Poe’s lesser-knowns, like The Oval Portrait and Hop Frog.
The series will continue this weekend with The Graduate. Based on the cult novel and iconic 1967 film, The Graduate by Buck Henry, Calder Willingham, Charles Webb, and Terry Johnson, follows Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who is filled with extreme anxiety due to his uncertain path ahead in life. He soon becomes even more confused after being seduced by Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father’s business partner, who he has known his whole life. While the affair eventually ends, it all comes back to haunt Benjamin after he falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter, Elaine.
“For the main stage we have to watch ourselves and what we present,” says Brian Zelinski, director of The Graduate. “This series gives people a look at an unedited version of a show, which actually exhibits the playwright’s true words or meanings.”
The Graduate stars John Robertson as Benjamin Braddock, Niko King as Mrs. Robinson, Rae Elizabeth Pare as Elaine, Donna Daniels as Mrs. Braddock, Ralph Garcia as Mr. Braddock, Jim Mallmann as Mr. Robinson, John Gelshenen as the bartender/priest/psychiatrist/desk clerk, and Robin Lewis as the stripper and receptionist.
“I think audiences will enjoy the fact that (The Graduate) is kind of an unknown and hasn’t been done a lot as a play,” Zelinski says. “There are real life situations that come in and absurdities that happen all at once.”
Zelinski shares that he casted King as the unforgettable Mrs. Robinson for the way she was able to make each actor auditioning for Benjamin visibly uncomfortable.
“The way words were coming out of her mouth and just the way she carried herself… there was a definite uneasiness in everyone that read opposite of her,” Zelinski says. “She has a way about her that just spoke as Mrs. Robinson.”
King will be making her Sunset debut along with Robertson. Although Robertson has virtually no other experiences on stage to work off of, Zelinski says this actually helped him in auditions.
“There were actors that were more polished, but I didn’t want polished,” Zelinski shares. “I wanted someone who could personify the fact that he is more over his head than he ever has been before.”
Nancy Visintainer-Armstrong, Sunset’s artistic director, adds that After Sunset’s shorter rehearsal schedule and one weekend run allows more talented actors in the community to get involved.
“There are a lot of people out there who want to be in shows, but can’t commit two months of their time,” Visintainer-Armstrong says. “This is a good way for them to get out and do something.”
The Graduate runs at Sunset’s studio theatre Jan. 11 – 14. The next After Sunset show, Betrayal, will be April 5 – 8, with the last production in the series Heathers The Musical, slated for June 7 – 10. For tickets call the box office at 262-782-4430 or visit sunsetplayhouse.com.