Ocean State’s ‘Born Yesterday’ dated but still relevant

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Garson Kanin’s 1946 political comedy “Born Yesterday” is a bit dated in its language and approach to male/female relationships, but its stinging rebuke of American shady politics is as relevant today as it was back then.

Robert Ierardi plays chauvinistic, crude, abusive Harry Brock with a vengeance. The crooked junk dealer has made a fortune by bullying his way through shady deals, now arriving in Washington, D.C. to continue his methods with a corrupt senator. Harry brings along his dumb blonde girlfriend, Billy (Lara Hayhurst), whose only responsibilities are to sleep with him and sign silent-partner papers. Billy embarrasses Harry with her dumbness, hiring Paul (Michael Jennings Mahoney), a journalist, to educate her.

You can see what’s coming, as Billy and Paul develop a relationship and Billy finally figures out how Harry has made his money. While some of the plot seems as current as yesterday’s headlines, much of the dialogue is straight from the ’40s. When Billy finally confronts her sugar daddy, after being mentally and physically abused, she tells him to “drop dead.” Playwrights today would have chosen two other words.

The play is a long one (three acts over two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission), as plays were back then, and Director Amiee Turner has chosen to follow the original script and stage directions completely. This results in a few awkward scenes, and on opening weekend the timing was occasionally off.

With all the slick, tightly woven plays being written these days, it is kind of a nostalgic treat to go back to earlier days in the theatre. The talented cast, especially Hayhurst, plays its characters broadly. You will be rooting for Billy and waiting patiently for Brock to get what’s coming to him.

“Born Yesterday” is at Warwick’s Ocean State Theatre Company through Feb. 12. Call 921-6800 for reservations.

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