by Lorie Lewis Ham
My daughter and I had the pleasure this weekend of seeing the comedy Born Yesterday, currently on stage at Good Company Players Second Space in Fresno. While this Tony Award winning play set in Washington D.C. was written in 1946, it could just as easily be set now.
“Born Yesterday is about a corrupt tycoon, Harry Brock, who comes to Washington to buy a senator and get votes for his wheeling and dealing,” said show director Karan Johnson. “He brings his long-time mistress, Billie Dawn, a former chorus girl who is unread, uneducated and uninformed. Billie makes some social faux pas and Harry gets the idea to hire a crusading journalist to ‘smarten her up,’ so she won’t embarrass him. As Billie learns about politics, history, literature and life she begins to realize how corrupt Harry is and determines to change things. The play is part political satire, and part romantic comedy, as Billie and the journalist have immediate chemistry.”
Karan was thrilled by the opportunity to direct this play and loved the idea of keeping alive this vital piece of theatre history once said by Woody Allen to be the best American comedy written for the stage. She also loved the idea of bringing it to new audiences. “Born Yesterday is a classic, iconic comedy with a main character, Billie Dawn, that has become part of the theatrical lexicon. It is comedy in the classic sense of the word – it’s not a ‘sit-com’ type of show, although there are some very funny moments. It tackles difficult themes, including violence toward women, but has a happy ending and the good guys win.”
“When I first got this directing assignment I started thinking about who in Fresno could possibly play the classic role of Billie Dawn, and I thought of Danielle Jorn and hoped she would audition for me,” continued Karan. “She nails the part – getting both the brassiness and the vulnerability.”
Karan is pleased with the entire cast. “Henry Montelongo brings the menace needed for Harry Brock, but also makes you see the rough-edged appeal of this character. Eric Orum is wonderful as the reporter who enlightens Billie in more ways than one, and Gordon Moore gives layers to the part of the disillusioned sell-out lawyer Devery.”
Danielle does a wonderful job with this surprisingly complex character. Billie, who starts off as a sassy, dumb blonde, turns out to be more naïve than dumb and it’s a delight to see her change and grow as she learns more about life, the world and real love. The journalist Paul, is played by the talented Eric Orum who was recently one of mine and my daughter’s favorites in GCP’s production of The Crucible, and he does equally well in this far different role.
This show is hilarious, yet poignant; making you angry at times at the political corruption, yet it was also very funny and Billie’s transformation was inspiring. My daughter and I loved this show and highly recommend seeing it before it’s too late. Born Yesterday runs through June 12—more details can be found on their KRL event page.
As we approach the Tony Awards on June 12, it is interesting to note that a revival of Born Yesterday is currently on stage in New York and has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play and Best Costume Design of a Play. Learn more about this show’s Broadway return on their website and watch KRL for more Tony related articles over the next few weeks.