Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Also see Richard's review of Small Craft Warnings
But the producers here say they chose this play on or before November 26, 2015, nearly a full year before the election. So any similarity between it and present day events, sixty-one years after Born Yesterday first debuted, is purely coincidental. And either way, it's a delightful show in every sense, which is all that really matters, right?
But it is interesting to note that the whole plot turns on rough-hewn scrap-dealer-turned millionaire Harry Brock (brash and terrifically naturalistic as played by Joe O'Connor) and his efforts to keep his girlfriend Billie Dawn (the wonderful Heather Sartin) both dimwitted and in the dark. But as anyone over the age of 40 probably remembers, that girlfriend is gradually drawn away from Brock and into enlightenment by the the idealistic journalist Paul Verrall (played by the very likable Mark A. Neels).
The upshot of it all is that the show gains added tension from current events: Harry Brock dominates and deceives Billie, clumsily attempting to extend his financial power into the world of politics. And even if that political resonance wasn't there, this production still has excellent realism in the acting style, and admiral pacing under the silky direction of Sam Hack. The perfect meshing of script and direction means things can slow down a tick here and there, and it only adds to the verisimilitude. Somehow, as everything comes together, we can't help looking nervously over Billie and Paul's shoulders as they get closer, wondering if Harry will suddenly come barging in again. And costumes and sets, sometimes a problem at Clayton, are all quite admirable in this production, further heightening the atmosphere.
There's also a great, cozy sense of "settling in" to something vastly reassuring and fun in act twoas if snuggling up by a warm fire on a cold night, while this great lovers' triangle roars to life with great characters and pacing. (After intermission, acts two and three have been merged together, which works just fine.) Tom Moore is excellent as a Washington insider, and Will Shaw is every inch an elegant U.S. senator, quietly willing to take a bribe from a rich out-of-towner.
Overall, it's lighter and brighter than the 1950 film with Judy Holliday, William Holden and Broderick Crawford, which eventually bogs down in excessive nobility. But the original play, with its straightforward plot and outrageous outsiders thrashing around in Washington, D.C. is just plain fun, especially in this staging.
Through May 14, 2017, at the Washington University South Campus, 6501 Clayton Rd., 63105. For more information visit www.placeseveryone.org.