Friday, February 6, 2015


By Camilla Maxwell

Trudging through the ice and snow in Downtown Buffalo, the lights on Main Street shined especially bright on this Friday night, as I battled through the wind and subzero temperatures. As a native Australian, I still think of the thermometer in terms of Celsius. I checked the conversion; it was a bloody minus-12 degrees!

Perhaps it was this icy night in the Theatre District that made The Alleyway Theatre seem all the more alluring then, as I knew I would soon be taken away to Pasadena, California. 

Transporting the audience back to the late 1960's -- perhaps when some viewers actually saw the The Graduate on the silver screen -- the Western New York theatrical premier did not leave anyone behind.

With the bell-bottoms, satin jumpsuits and hippie-era music, the American classic starring Dustin Hoffman came to life on The Alleyway stage. 

We all know the story -- 20-year-old Benjamin Braddock is a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, and he is seduced by an older woman. Enter the infamous Mrs. Robinson (cue Simon & Garfunkle now). 

Benjamin spends his days in lackluster limbo and his nights tangled in sweaty hotel linen. It all goes to hell, of course -- as most love stories built for the stage and film do.

Directed impeccably by resident director, Todd Warfield, Mrs. Robinson is played courageously by Constance Caldwell. Caldwell, who spends most of the play clad in nothing but her lingerie, really tuned in to the dark alcoholic nature of this lady. So much so that sitting in that dark theatre you could almost smell the stale vodka coming off her breath. This dark-haired femme fatale is supported brilliantly by the fresh-faced Tyler Brown, who portrays Benjamin as an extremely brilliant and troubled boy. We see a narcissist, a genius, and a child. Flickers of humanity overshadowed by the tragically flawed hero.

                                                    Tyler Brown and Constance Caldwell
I must mention Timothy Patrick Finnegan, who plays Benjamin’s father. He is an absolute pleasure to watch on stage. With a relaxed confidence, Finnegan delivers every line with perfect timing and his interactions with the always enjoyable Joyce Stilson (Mrs. Braddock) leave you begging for more witty repartee. Eliza Vann is also one to watch as Mrs. Robinson's breathtaking daughter, Elaine. You can see why Braddock might fall for her -- have I said too much? 

As for the Mise-en-scène, the set is visually quite plain, although the costumes are not. And whilst the nostalgic music and lighting lulls you back in time, I found it didn’t really matter. The actors were the driving force of this play.

I could take a minute to ponder what a heavily decorated 1960’s set might complement -- with chances for the actors to partake in activities (perhaps a round of croquet, or mixing cocktails, or blow-drying their bouffant), but the bare bones were there, and there is no point focusing on “what ifs.”
The Graduate is playing now through February 14 (Valentine's Day, hint hint) at The Alleyway Theatre. And here's to you, Mrs. Robinson.

The Alleyway Theatre
1 Curtain Up Alley
Buffalo, New York 14202
(716) 852 -2600
Don't forget to check out Buffalo Quickies at The Alleyway Theatre running March 26-April 1. What are those bison doing!?