Garson Kanin’s "Born Yesterday" at the John Waldron Arts Center is a comic patriotic Pygmalion paen of the civic education of worldly innocent with some pretty solid serious moments.
Harry Brock, a crude loudmouthed business man with Senator Norval Hedges in his pocket and Ed Devery a formerly fine lawyer as his lackey has a problem. His former chorus girl girl friend, Billie Dawn, is a little to rough around the edges to gracefully swim the Washington, D.C. waters. Now Harry, played with a nicely turned one note crudity by Eduardo Torres, believes that money, enough money and he’s got lots of it, will solve any problem.
In "Born Yesterday," Harry hires Paul Verral, an idealistic young journalist to coach Billie. Jeremy Fisher as Paul, was a delight to watch as his optimism underlayed by intelligence and knowledge simply sparkled. Paul’s pupil, Billie Dawn played by Carrie Owen, doesn’t stop with the smoothing of her edges. Sparked by Paul’s tutoring and the developing love between teacher and star pupil, she simply outgrows Harry and with Paul’s help turns the financial tables on him. Carrie Owen carried the transformation of Billie credibly, but I missed the usual transition from Brooklynese to more standard speech that’s frequently a hallmark of the part.
The set of "Born Yesterday" is supposed to reflect a suite in New York’s swankiest hotel, circa 1947. This is a tall order for any theatre group and especially for one on a budget. There was nicely done color harmony and arrangement to the room with a number of touches that were just right.
The Capraesque ending of "Born Yesterday" can seem overly simple and naïve. I don’t think many of us believe that selfishness is the root of all society’s problems. However in the last scene of Billie and Paul triumpf, it certainly seems true and right.
Throughout "Born Yesterday" Steven Heise, as Ed Devery, the lacky lawyer did a masterful job with the sad alcoholic decline of his character. Frank Buzcolich as the kept Senator did a fine job as the big dog brought to heel by money. Angie Hickman as the Senator’s proper wife, Jeremy Fisher as the stolid maid, Erin Pritchard as three different hotel functionaries and Spencer Hutchinson as Harry’s much put upon and dutiful cousin all performed well.
"Born Yesterday" is Megan Anderson’s first venture as a director. It’s really neat that Bloomington can make this sort of experience available to a young talented person and that she brought it off so well.
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"Born Yesterday" in the Rose Firebay of the Waldron Arts Center plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday at eight and Sunday at two.