Born Yesterday, which runs at the through June 10, is a refreshing interpretation of Garson Kanin’s Broadway blockbuster and Hollywood movie that placed a not-so-dumb blonde Judy Holiday across the gin table from Broderick Crawford as the junk metal czar trying to buy a senator in post WWII Washington D.C.
The play, which tips its hat to Shaw’s “Pygmalion” was relevant in 1946 when it debuted and remains so today due to the cast of characters: a crooked schnook, a former showgirl and a shrewd newspaper reporter hired to give the gal a little class.
In the Petaluma production of Novato plays the ex-chorus girl, Billie Dawn, deliciously. Gordon’s theatrical experience includes professional training at the MFA program at Harvard University/Moscow Art Theater School and she also works in film.
Her interpretation of Billie Dawn has depth and takes us on her journey from arm candy to independent thinker. The audience could almost see the little wheels in her brain turning as she endeavored to figure out her role in Harry Brock’s life and where it might lead her. While the play is full of laugh out loud lines, Gordon’s vulnerable speech about her dad insisting on a hot lunch was a heartbreaker.
Gary Grossman’s crass Harry Brock was enthusiastically loud and pushy. A Marin Shakespeare Company alum he has played the peg-legged pirate Sly in “Taming of the Shrew,” Mardian the Eunuch in “Antony and Cleopatra” and Trebonius in “Julius Caesar.”
Grossman’s galloping gruffness set against Gordon’s petite presence creates a hand in glove pairing. Enter Paul Huberty playing newshound Paul Verrall all sideways glances and Man of the World calmness. Verrall adds rich sexual tension to a play Garson Kanin wrote so tightly that he became the first playwright to earn one million dollars for the movie rights.
Sheri Lee Miller’s direction has the entire cast firing on all cylinders.
The supporting cast was very good with a special shout-out to Samson Hood who played Senator Norval Hedges. My husband and I spent considerable time marveling at his intense periods of numb shock during the play.
In cameo roles, Madeleine Ashe as the maid Helen and Nuria Ibars as the Senator’s wife gave spirited performances as the choruses offering opposing class perspectives.
The original production of Born Yesterday ran for 1,642 sold out Broadway performances. Judy Holiday played the role on stage and in the film earning an Oscar for Best Actress. It is a must see for anyone who loves plays that take serious themes and wraps them in a confection of classic comedy.
Born Yesterday runs through June 10 with Friday evening and Saturday matinee performances. The Cinnabar Theater is at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North. Tickets are $15 to $25. Call 763-8920. Go to www.cinnabartheater.org for more information.