Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Ocean State Theatre Company’s fifth season’s winter comedy is “Born Yesterday” by Garson Kanin. An uncouth, corrupt rich junk dealer, Harry Brock brings his showgirl mistress Billie Dawn with him to Washington, D.C. When Billie’s ignorance becomes a liability to Brock’s business dealings, he hires a journalist, Paul Verrall, to educate his mistress. In the process of learning, Billie Dawn realizes how corrupt Harry is and begins interfering with his plan to coerce a Senator into passing legislation that would allow Brock’s business to make more money. The original show ran for 1642 performances on Broadway. Director Amiee Turner casts marvelous performers in these role and elicits terrific performances from this timely show that could have been written about contemporary political times we live in.
Lara Hayhurst is hilarious as the dumb ex-chorus girl who is a lot smarter than you’d imagine. She reminds you of Lina Lamont from “Singing in the Rain” with her high pitched voice. Her transition from dim bulb into a well read woman is remarkably done. This story can be compared to “Cinderella” and “Pygmalion” as the teacher becomes infatuated with the pupil who learns everything she is taught to turn the tables on being kept in her place. Some of her clever bits include humming “Anything Goes”, playing gin and reading many books. Lara is phenomenal in this role. Robert Ieraradi commands the stage as the vulgar and egotistical hoodlum. He runs roughshod over his cronies but finally meets a match in his mistress who knows a lot more than he thinks she does. Harry verbally abuses those around him but gets his comeuppance in a very unexpected and hilarious turn of events. Michael Jennings Mahoney is terrific as the idealistic journalist who eventually develops a crush on his pupil as he tries to right the wrongs of the U.S. capital. He wears spectacles and tutors Billie where she is a quick and eager learner. I last reviewed Michael as Fred in “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity this past November. The show reflects the time period with the certainty that honesty and Constitutional integrity will over come big money muscle and political and corporate self interests.
Other performers include Sean McGuirk as Ed Devery, the crooked lawyer lackey who spout witticisms at Harry and tells Billie that a “Don’t careism” is taking over the country. Greg LoBouno as Harry’s cousin, Eddie who pays off people, gets drinks and all around lackey, is one of the biggest scene stealers with his comic walk and line delivery. The shady senator is well played by Brian Mulvey as is his lovely high society wife by Cynthia Killavey who rolls many an eye at Billie’s faux pas’. So for a rollicking good time in this political comedy from yester year that is very relevant to current proceedings in our capital, be sure to catch “Born Yesterday” at Ocean State Theatre Company. The gorgeous two story Art Deco set is by Kenneth J. Martin with furniture from Ethan Allen while all the authentic 1940’s costumes are by Noelle Raffy with the ladies wigs with banana curls for Billie and pin curls for Mrs. Hedges expertly made by Meg Kane.
BORN YESTERDAY (25 January to 12 February)
Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick, RI
1(401)921-6800 or www.oceanstatetheatre.org