Brilliant! That would be my definition if someone were to ask me to describe the current Remy Bumppo production- “Born Yesterday”, Garson Kanin’s honest look at just how strange and strained politics in our country is. The play was written just after the second World War, when The United States was going thru major transitions. The “BIG” one as it was called, caused endless authors and playwrights to seek change and answers for what we had been experiencing. After the war, our country was experiencing a new economic “high” and people who could were seeking ways to take advantage, regardless of the trail they might leave behind.
I have seen the movie version many times, and each time I find myself falling in love with the character of Billie, the “dumb blonde” showgirl, who in the end shines and changes how we look at our lives. In the film, her boyfriend, Harry, the scrap metal king, was played by Broderick Crawford. Billie by Judy Holiday and her “tutor” who becomes her mentor, and more, Paul by William Holden. Just seeing these three names on a marquee would be reason enough to purchase a ticket. While movies are great, my love is the “live” theater and this particular production, directed to perfection by David Darlow, makes this stunning story one that drives home its message from the start to the finish, bringing a smile to each and every patron sitting in the Greenhouse Theatre (upstairs).
The cast that Remy Bumppo puts on their stage is sharp and professional, never trying to imitate what we saw in the film, but their own interpretation of the characters that Kanin put down on paper. In the role of Harry Brock, Sean M. Sullivan displays the power that this character has developed in making his own way. The man has worked his way out of the gutter to be a man of great power and financial security. Billie Dawn, his girlfriend/mistress/partner is played to perfection by the radiant Eliza Stoughton. I fell in love with her 10 minutes into the production! Paul, the educated writer who is hired by Harry to teach Billie “stuff”, is well- played by Greg Matthew Anderson.
The story is this: Harry is in Washington, D.C. (in a hotel suite designed by Grant Sabin) to make a deal with a Senator Hedges (played by Chicago favorite Brian Parry). Harry’s attorney, Ed (a very able Shawn Douglas) has arranged some meetings and paperwork to get Harry what he wants- Power over what he can and can’t do in running his business (taking government control away). As we learn, to protect his business ventures from scrutiny, many of the shares of each company have been placed in Billie’s name. She signs what she is told to, when told to, but as she learns more and reads more, begins to see that she is being used by the “man” in her life.
I certainly do not want to spoil any of this marvelous story-line, so I will only tell you that as Billie becomes more educated and learns more about the world of business mixed with politics, she becomes more worldly and wants to know even more. We watch as Kanin’s view of politics and big business reminds us that all these years later, perhaps the world has not changed that much after all. Sure we now have electronic monitoring and the world is a much faster paced one than back in the post-war era, but listen very carefully to what these people discuss when it comes to business and politics and the strange bedfellows that arise from each and both. The other cast members that round out this sterling production are Maggie Clennon Reberg who takes on the roles of Mrs. Hedges and the housekeeper, Helen (some very funny little bits), Drew Shirley as Harry’s “cousin”/bodyguard Eddie and Drew Schad as the hotel assistant manager and the barber.
On the technical side, in addition to the marvelous set design by Sabin, the lighting (Michael Rourke), costumes (Izumi Inabi), sound (Christopher Kriz) and props (Jamie Karas) were all as near to perfection as one can ask. The music that is in this production is very “perfect” as well- in particular the use of “Anything Goes”. Darlow, who is quite the actor himself, shows us with this production that “history can indeed repeat itself”. Just read the daily paper or tune in to CNN and what you see is very close to that which Kanin wrote 70 years ago! Pretty amazing is what I call it! You will too!
“Born Yesterday” will continue at The Greenhouse Theater Center located at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue thru April 30th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 2:30 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, April 12th special at 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays, April 20th there will be a 2:30 p.m. added performance
For info on specials-touch-tour (audio described performances), post-show talk-backs and pre-show lectures visit www.RemyBumppo.org
Tickets range from $42.50- $57.50 and can be purchased by calling 773-404-7336 or online at www.RemyBumppo.org
Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes total with an intermission.
Street parking is limited. Parking is available at Mrs Green’s Natural Market at 555 Webster credit card only or at Lincoln Garage (former Children’s Hospital Garage) $10 BUT do not park in DePaul spaces (you could be towed or ticketed).
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “Born Yesterday”