WEST VALLEY — Director Tamara Adam’s vision of Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday is a surprisingly well thought out political comedy, and yes, there’s that romance thing in there too. On first entering Hale Centre Theatre’s performance space, I was shocked and excited to see a lavish set that didn’t look like it would be moving anywhere. The stage is beautifully set for a mid-1940’s hotel suite in Washington, DC.
Enter our players: The bellowing Jersey native gone tycoon, Harry Brock (Zac Zumbrunnen) checks in with his entourage including the lovely Miss Billie Dawn (Kylee Bird). Billie, a former chorus girl that Brock has persuaded to tag along with him in his business dealings, is unwittingly being played by Brock and his lawyer as a pawn in their financial schemes which leads to the fantastic justice served the tycoon in the end. While Billie settles in Brock and his perpetually intoxicated lawyer, Jim Deverey (Phillip Hall) talk shop. Brock has brought his “junk” business to the nations’ capital to put the squeeze on a senator that has the possibility of saving him some serious dough with a little political maneuvering. Also on the scene is the brilliant, tall/dark/handsome nerdy journalist, Paul Verrall (Jeff Dickamore). Verrall is hoping to uncover Brock’s reason for being in DC, but is roped into acting as Billie’s private tutor to save Brock from the embarrassment of his witless companion. Though we quickly find that he’s clearly not in it for the money.
After this montage of characters are swept across the stage, the real fun begins. Between Billie and Brock’s shouts across the hotel, the irritatingly hilarious game of Gin, a giggling and tipsy senator’s wife, and the hidden romance, Hale’s Born Yesterday is a riot. My biggest rave for this production is the pacing! So often the scene will be littered with awkward silences while lines slowly percolate to the surface to be delivered, especially in a straight play. Not the case here. The shouts and the one liners were all delivered with a refreshing snap and rarely did I catch a lull in the dialogue. The only low point in the pacing (though not enough to be conspicuous) was act two when the tone became a little heavier and the line delivery backed down in an attempt to accommodate the weight of the story.
The relationship between Brock and Billie was by far the most powerful and real to watch, even when things got bad. The relationship was a perfect portrayal of the stories’ underlying political agenda. This show screams at the audience about the importance of seeking knowledge and (more importantly) putting it to good use. The moral of the story of Born Yesterday is that those who refuse to acknowledge the world around them are destined to be crushed. The power is in the people’s hands, not the hands of the government or even the hands of the corporations that try to steer it. This is a resounding message for any audience to hear, just as it was in 1946 when the show originally opened.
Along with the primary agenda, the interaction between Billie and Verrall was equally fun to watch. The intrigues they shared while everyone else was out were charming, though a little sappy. (I apologize… this is a guy reviewing this.) The physical and emotional space between the two actors was also put to good use and allowed coverage of the entire stage while still drawing you to focus primarily on the action.
This small cast put on a fantastic performance and I was pleasantly surprised I didn’t walk out of the theater screaming “OH HALE!” As a perfect complement to the MWF cast the crew performed beautifully. The costumes, the lights, the set and the audio all added to the show. Nothing was over the top or below the standard. Well done to Hale and I hope that those reading this will get a chance to see this brilliant show.