Saturday, April 30, 2011

Born Yesterday

Born Yesterday is a cheeky little revival playing at one of those little Broadway theaters you never think to go to. I was slightly nervous going in-- secretly judging this 1940s self-proclaimed romantic comedy for its impending jazz hands, overblown stereotypes, and corny punch lines. I've been disappointed by these kooky golden age revivals more times than necessary, undoubtedly annoyed that someone out there didn't try a little harder, and that Broadway is full of blockheads, and that all the good ideas have quite frankly run out.

However. After fidgeting for the first fifteen minutes or so of introductions, and then completing a mental packing list for my little business trip the next morning during all of Jim Belushi's opening business driven dialogue, one Miss Nina Ariana snapped the entire play into focus. Oh! This play is about Billy! Ignore gravely old Brock (Belushi), he isn't the point anyway.

Born Yesterday, turns out, is a slightly deconstructed version of Pygmalion that chooses to maintain our leading lady's own version of self while simultaneously handing us the gratification of a makeover. She's smarter but not uglier. She'll question but not demand. It's also a lovely little observation on the gender war as was so brilliantly outed by Hepburn and Tracy a decade earlier in rom-coms Adam's Rib, Woman of the Year, and Pat and Mike.

It's so well observed, in fact, that the conversation I forced upon my theater companion during intermission was quite astonishingly mirrored onstage as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose again. Life imitating art!, or the other way around. (Although whether the repeated conversation is testament to the script's timeless quality or rather a commentary on the repetition of human interaction is up for further debate.)

Nina Ariana stole this one, folks. Belushi and his intellectual counterpart, played by Robert Sean Leonard, were perfectly fine but utterly forgettable in the spotlight of Broadway's next Tony award winning actress (you heard it here first). It's a fun play with a surprisingly thoughtful conclusion that if nothing else, allowed this jaded theater goer a full fledged sigh of relief.

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