Breakthrough Theater of Winter Park
by Terry Johnson
directed by Jennifer Rea
starring Nate Elliot, Kristin Pringle-Marksbury and Gabby Hatch
Ben (Elliott) really should have chosen “Plastics.” Instead, he fails at the Jack Kerouac life style, can’t seem to get himself into gear, and then gets seduced by his dad’s business partner’s alcoholic wife Mrs. Robinson (Marksbury). That putters along until he meets her daughter Elaine (Hatch), then he ditches mom and begins to chase her. This doesn’t work out much better; he ends up in a fight with Mr. Robinson in a Berkley dive apartment. He gets Elaine, but as the lights come up and bows come down, I can’t imagine this marriage will work out any better than any other of Ben’s projects.
This script hews closer to the novel than the film; all the best lines cross the stage in the first ten minutes and the wet suit scene shrinks to a 15 second sound effect. This does feel like a radically different story, but the end is the same. Elliot’s Ben wears an aura of depression and indecision, he’s almost likeable but you just want him to stand up every now and again and decide something. Marksbury’s bored housewife affects a much stronger personality; she knows what she wants and drives Ben more than his parents ever could. The parental units would be the Ozzie and Harriet duo of Anthony Marando and Marcie Schwalm who appears a split character; they did everything for Ben they were taught to do as good parents, but the recipe still doesn’t come out correctly. Mr. Braddock takes it smoothly, but the Mrs. only blames herself. The real toxic relation arises between Mrs. Robinson and Elaine; Elaine was too good a child for her and somehow that bred her boredom and ennui. Kevin Hudson dominates the set physically, he’s a teddy bear until he realizes he’s been had; this is enough to make him punch out a theatrical door handle.
There are some dated elements to the story but it captures a sense of excessive contentment that infused the American id just before the jarring 1970’s lit up. The good things came too easily to this generation, and therefore success and a steady food supply became meaningless. The sexual tension is strong, and this may rank as the most provocative show Breakthrough has ever put up.