Many consider Garson Kanin's Born Yesterday to be the funniest American comedy of the 20th Century. It opened in New York in 1946, running for 1,642 performances, still the longest-running show ever at the Lyceum Theatre. This story of millionaire junk czar, Harry Brock and his entourage is firmly set in 1946 Washington DC. World War II has just ended and the Cold War is just heating up. In the ensuing decades this show has been remounted many times on stage and twice in the movies. Although Born Yesterday is first and foremost a comedy, its themes, satire and symbolism have rung as loud through the decades as at its opening, and in many ways, even louder today.
Brock is a large, vulgar man, accustomed to having, or if necessary, buying his own way. He sets up shop in the poshest hotel suite in Washington, complete with his younger, ex-chorus-girl ‘companion,’ Billie Dawn, his younger cousin and henchman, Eddie, and his personal lawyer, Jim Devery. We soon learn that Devery has set up a meeting with Senator Norval Hedges to discuss proposed legislation to reduce regulations that may interfere with Brock’s ‘free-enterprise’ exploits. Of course, ‘free enterprise’ includes freedom to pay the good Senator for his efforts.
A young investigative reporter, Paul Verrall, is on Brock’s trail, but manages to gain a certain level of trust from Brock following their initial meeting. This trust leads to Brock hiring Paul to teach the poorly-educated Billie some ways of culture and higher society, not realizing how much this education will change Billie’s outlook as well as her romantic interests.
Brock comes to represent the thuggery and ferociousness of free-market capitalism, while Verrall laments about a ‘yellowing’ of democracy, decaying in the wake of the war. He says, "The whole darn history of the world is the struggle between the selfish and unselfish," referring to the capitalist greed he so loathes in Brock. Hedges is part of a government controlled by big-money interests. Billie, initially the uneducated ‘dumb blonde’ living on her street smarts, is the unwitting victim of her rich oppressor until she finds her own strength through education. What could be a more topical collection of subplots for today’s audience?
But, above all... Born Yesterday is a very funny comedy!
Mar 16Full Day $275 Half Day $125