A loud bully of a businessman, throwing around his money and his weight, and conducting some shady backroom deals with weak and greedy senators; intimidated lawyers and assistants, and an equally intimidated bimbo – any of this sound familiar? And yet Born Yesterday was written 70 years ago. Shows how little American politics have changed.
It is to be hoped Jacob Richmond’s voice lasts for the next ten days – he does a lot of shouting in this play. Not really a rough diamond with a heart of gold – Harry Brock is more like a lump of coal – black hearted and likely to burst into flames; Richmond manages to maintain the character of this thoroughly nasty person throughout.
Ed Devery, the lawyer in with Brock for his money but able to look at him only through the bottom of a glass, is brilliantly played by Tim Machin. He has the amazing last line of the play, which pretty much sums up how he feels about what he is doing. Eddie Brock, Harry’s long-suffering cousin and punching bag, is ably handled by Michael Armstrong.
Malcolm Everett Harvey portrays the malleable senator, and Iris MacGregor Bannerman is his bridge-playing wife, smaller but crucial parts in this wickedly comic drama. Jonathan Mason gives an excellent performance as the idealistic young journalist who is instrumental in shining the light of education onto the dimness of ignorance.
But, of course, the cream of this whole jug of milk is the character of Billie Dawn, the blonde airhead who eventually becomes the savvy young woman holding all the cards. Kassianni Austin has the moves, the facial expression and the Brooklyn accent to bring this ex-chorus girl to life. The audience wants to cheer for her as she learns to stand up for herself, and to laugh with her as she struggles to improve her vocabulary. An outstanding performance!
During the Second World War the world was a very different place from the US in the twenty-first century, but in this production the two timeframes seem woven together seamlessly. This is due to the talent of the playwright, Garson Kanin, in giving us these timeless characters, I suppose.
Janet Munsil directs this humorous but thought-provoking piece of theatre with a deft hand, which prevents it from going over the top. Kudos to her and to all the cast for a magnificent job!
Born Yesterday, Blue Bridge Repertory Theatre’s second play of the season, runs at the Roxy Theatre on Quadra Street until June 11. Tickets at bluebridgetheatre.ca or 250-382-3370.