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Bag&Baggage aims to seduce with a familiar tale

COURTESY: CASEY CAMPBELL PHOTOGRAPHY - Arianne Jacques as Elaine, Eric St. Cyr as Benjamin and Kymberli Colbourne as Mrs. Robinson star in Bag&Baggage's upcoming production of 'The Graduate.'Benjamin Braddock has just finished college and, back at his parents’ house, he’s trying to avoid the one question everyone keeps asking — what does he want to do with his life?

The tale of the young man’s first disastrous sexual odyssey is coming to a stage in the form of “The Graduate,” a critically acclaimed stage play put on by Hillsboro’s Bag&Baggage Productions.

The production, adapted from the 1963 cult novel by Charles Webb and the 1967 film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft, is a bittersweet comedy that will take audiences back to the beginnings of the counter-culture and sexual revolutions of the 1960s. The play aims to heavily incorporate the source material, which is raw, frail and not as Hollywood-ed up as the film.

“Given the upheaval our country is experiencing around gender, sexuality and women’s rights, this feels like a great time to go back and witness how these issues first came to prominence and how they still influence the way we live today,” said B&B Artistic Director Scott Palmer, who is also directing the production.

In the play, after Braddock (Eric St. Cyr) returns home, life takes a major turn when he is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Kymberli Colbourne), a bored housewife and close friend of his parents. What starts off as a diversion turns into a major complication when Braddock falls in love with the one woman Mrs. Robinson demanded he keep away from — her daughter, Elaine (Arianne Jacques).

COURTESY: CASEY CAMPBELL PHOTOGRAPHY - Eric St. Cyr plays Benjamin Braddock in Bag&Baggage's production of 'The Graduate.'Nearly 50 years after the novel and ground-breaking film were presented, America is still grappling with issues of misogyny and sexism. Sexuality, what makes people happy, intergenerational relationships, youthful rebellion and generational gaps are just some of the important themes woven into the narrative. The play also offers a glimpse at some of the social norms during the 1960s.

“Although the play is a comedy, it is also filled with powerful and relevant themes,” said Palmer. “It’s about misspent youth, a corrupt and decadent older generation with little concern for their children and a growing dissatisfaction with middle-class values.”

“It’s funny, because we’re supposed to see ourselves in the characters,” said Colbourne, who noted that the production isn’t just a typical comedy.

Many others have approached the play and incorporated slapstick elements to get a rise out of audiences, when really, the piece could arguably be placed in the category of works like “Louie” and “Maron,” both of which are American comedy-drama television series that star and are written by Louis C.K. and Marc Maron, respectively.

The last four weeks have been great, according to members of the cast.

“It’s been an organic rehearsal process, we’re working on not giggling so we don’t break character in those comedic moments,” said St. Cyr.

“The script is very different, there’s less dialogue in the film, and this script really deepens the relationships and fleshes out the character backgrounds with new scenes,” said Colbourne. “It’s a challenging work that doesn’t seem hard at first — the lines are formatted for natural human dialogue, there are a lot of small words, but it can be difficult to nail how the characters naturally react to each other.”

Police officer in play

Lt. Michael Rouches, a local actor and Hillsboro Police Department spokesman, makes his B&B debut as Mr. Braddock, joined by another B&B newcomer Kim Bogus as Mrs. Braddock. B&B regular David Heath plays Mr. Robinson, and resident actors Andrew Beck and Cassie Greer appear in a variety of supporting roles. Costume designs are by Melissa Heller, with scenic design by Megan Wilkerson and lighting design by Jim Ricks-White.

“I’ve been around theater around the area, and I’ve always admired what Scott Palmer does,” said Rouches.

Although Rouches is always on call at his main job at the HPD, he’s got backups to help out while he’s performing. “My bosses are pretty understanding, and they know that acting is important to me,” he said.

Rouches has been performing plays since the age of 11. This year marks his 44th year of starring in live productions, from Los Angeles to Wisconsin and Oregon. He acted in community theater productions at Theatre in the Grove and HART. He attended Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisc., a private Roman Catholic liberal arts college, where he studied theater.

“I write and act because it’s awesome — everyone is so talented,” he said.

The characters in the production are iconic, and although the tryout process was challenging, Palmer is ecstatic that he’s found the right crew to work with.

“This is a very adult play,” he said. “It not only includes a lot of very serious commentary but it also has a lot of adult humor, including a few scenes with brief nudity. We encourage our audiences to think carefully before bringing students or kids to this show.”

The first Thursday performance, Sept. 8, is a “Pay What You Will” performance and folks can simply arrive at the Venetian prior to the show and make a cash donation in any amount for that evening’s show.

IF YOU GO:

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  • “The Graduate” will be on stage Sept. 8 through Oct. 2

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  • Performances take place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at The Venetian Theatre, 253 E. Main St., Hillsboro

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  • Tickets are available online at www.bagnbaggage.org or by calling the box office at 503-345-9590