In today’s Wall Street Journal I review a Sarasota revival of Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday. Here’s an excerpt.
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Few commercial comedies age well, but the best ones can retain their charm long after their contemporaneity has faded. Among them is Garson Kanin’s “Born Yesterday,” whose original 1946 stage production set Judy Holliday on the path to stardom. The 2011 Broadway revival should have done the same thing for Nina Arianda, who put her own deliciously personal spin on Billie Dawn, the not-so-dumb dumb blonde who became Holliday’s signature role. But the other leads were erratically cast, and the production as a whole failed to make a sufficiently strong impression on the public at large, closing after just 73 performances. I’ve been waiting ever since for a first-class regional company to take a fresh shot at “Born Yesterday.” Now Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre has done the honors with a version directed by Peter Amster that is consistently winning. If they’d done “Born Yesterday” like this on Broadway six years ago, it’d still be open.
Casting, the saying goes, is two-thirds of directing, and Mr. Amster has dealt himself a handful of aces. Christina DeCicco plays Billie, a chorus girl turned rich man’s mistress, in the familiar manner of Holliday, yet there’s nothing mechanical about the way in which she evokes her model. She wears the role like a second skin, punching the laugh lines in a voice of solid brass while never letting us forget that beneath her sexy surface, Billie is a painfully vulnerable woman who hates herself for having hitched her wagon to the dark star of Harry Brock (Norm Boucher), a boorish thug who claims to “love that broad” but slaps her around whenever she fails to toe the line.
Mr. Boucher looks and sounds like a refrigerator with a klaxon horn hidden in the freezer, and he invests his part with the hard edge of barely controlled violence that was missing from Jim Belushi’s buffoonish Broadway performance….
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Read the whole thing here.
A scene from the 1950 film version of Born Yesterday, written by Garson Kanin, directed by George Cukor, and starring Judy Holliday, William Holden, and Broderick Crawford: