• Theater Review: ‘Born Yesterday’ is delicious ’40s comedy
    By Jim Lowe
     | October 06,2012
    Northern Stage Photo

    From left, James Donegan is Paul Verrall, Emily Stockdale is Billie Dawn and John Viscardi is Harry Brock in the Northern Stage production of “Born Yesterday.”

    WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — “A little education is a dangerous thing,” at least for those whose livelihood depends upon your not knowing what they are doing.

    That’s just what gets the shady big-time junk dealer Harry Brock in trouble with his seemingly ditzy girlfriend, Billie Dawn, in “Born Yesterday.”

    Northern Stage opened its season with a stylish, hilarious and even touching production of the classic Garson Kanin comedy. Thursday’s preview performance was great fun.

    “Born Yesterday” opened on Broadway in 1946, starring Judy Holliday as Billie Dawn; she was also featured in the 1950 film. The comedy was revived in 1989 with Madeline Kahn as Billie and Ed Asner as Harry, and again in 2011 with Nina Arianda and Jim Belushi.

    Harry Brock, a millionaire junk dealer, has come to Washington, D.C., to make some big but shady deals to increase his already great fortune. With the assistance of Ed Devery, a former assistant attorney general who has sold out, Harry is buying influence in Congress.

    Harry has brought along the bleached-blond showgirl Billie, because this may take awhile and he’s “nuts about her.” But when Billie’s lack of education and social skills appears to be a problem for Harry, he hires an impecunious young journalist, Paul Verrall to “educate” her.

    It may well be the biggest mistake Harry’s ever made. What ensues is simply delicious.

    The Northern Stage production, directed by Catherine Doherty, the company’s veteran producing director, is also delicious, stylish and great fun. For one, it’s beautifully cast.

    Emily Stockdale delivered a wonderful, even dimensional, comic performance as Billie. Stockdale spoke, moved and shrieked herself — beautifully — into the hearts of the audience.

    Matching her all the way was John Viscardi’s just-over-the-top performance as the full-of-himself Harry, at once menacing and pathetic. James Donegan was earnest as earnest can be as the incorruptible journalist Paul.

    At Thursday’s preview performance, some of the comic performances were a bit in-your-face; a little restraint might be even funnier. Still, subsequent performances may have more finesse.

    Gary Littman was beautifully cast as Devery, the dipsomaniac lawyer, who comes to appreciate Billie’s newfound integrity. Robert Turano delivered a droll performance as Eddie, Harry’s lackey of a cousin. The cast was fine throughout.

    Northern Stage’s production quality has grown substantially in recent years, and “Born Yesterday” is beautifully stylish. Kimberly Powers’ elegant luxury hotel room set, Amy Pedigo-Otto’s colorful period costumes and David Upton and Eric Furbish’s rich lighting all contribute to the effect.

    Northern Stage’s “Born Yesterday” is delicious comedy.

    Northern Stage

    Northern Stage presents “Born Yesterday,” the Garson Kanin classic comedy, Oct. 3-21 at the Briggs Opera House on Main Street in White River Junction. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, plus a 2 p.m. matinee Thursday, Oct. 11. Tickets are $20-$60, with discounts for seniors and children; call 296-7000 or go online to www.northernstage.org.

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