Previews for Born Yesterday began March 31, at Broadway's Cort Theatre. Directed by Doug Hughes, this revival of Garson Kanin's award-winning comedy about sex and politics opened tonight, Easter Sunday, April 24!
Emmy Award nominee Jim Belushi, Tony Award winner Robert Sean Leonard and Outer Critics' Circle nominee Nina Arianda head the cast in Born Yesterday. Tony Award-winner Doug Hughes directs this timeless and timely story of a not-so-honest businessman and a not-so-dumb blonde out to "capitalize" on everything Washington has to offer. Rounding out the cast of Born Yesterday are Frank Wood, Terry Beaver, Patricia Hodges, Michael McGrath, Fred Arsenault, Bill Christ, Jennifer Regan, Liv Rooth, Danny Rutigliano, Andrew Weems, and Robert Emmet Lunney.
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times:"But even the babel of fierce combat between the American theater's definitive dumb blonde, Billie Dawn (Nina Arianda), and her abusive lover Harry Brock (Jim Belushi), cannot obscure the occasional sound of creaking at the Cort Theater, where a solid but inessential revival of Garson Kanin's comedy "Born Yesterday" opened on Sunday night. The celluloid shadow of the wondrous Judy Holliday, who played Billie in the original 1946 Broadway production and the movie directed by George Cukor, inevitably looms large over any revival of "Born Yesterday." (Madeline Kahn starred in the only previous Broadway revival, in 1989.) To her immense credit Ms. Arianda, who made a spectacular Off Broadway debut last season as the actress-seductress in David Ives's "Venus in Fur," colors this cartoon role with her own set of Crayolas."
David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: "Director Doug Hughes (Doubt) doesn't try to goose the 1946 comedy with contemporary perspective. (Anyone who sat through the egregious 1993 screen remake with Melanie Griffith knows that updating this plot doesn't work.) Instead, he lets the play stand on its own idealistic, mid-century terms in its certainty that honesty and Constitutional integrity will always win out over big-money muscle and corporate and political self-interest. Even if many in the audience are likely to roll their eyes and think, "Yeah, good luck with that," it's pleasurable to escape into the fantasy of less cynical times."
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: "The play, which opened Sunday at the Cort Theatre and is directed with calm elegance by Doug Hughes, is riven with '40s sayings - "Make it snappy," 'Don't get excited," 'So long, kid" - and yet has a very relevant, if somewhat, ham-fisted indictment of politics awash in corrupting money. It has a message campaign finance reformers would find swell."
Howard Shapiro, Philadelphia Inquirer: "The play is fun enough -- a simple plot and not what you'd call a laff-riot -- but Belushi, the veteran of Second City, Saturday Night Live and scores of movies, and Arianda, debuting on Broadway after an acclaimed Off-Broadway coming-out last season in David Ives' Venus In Fur, serve up Born Yesterday on silver platters."
Erik Haagensen, Backstage.com: "Definitely a play of its time, "Born Yesterday" moves at a more leisurely pace than contemporary works and is unembarrassed by its idealized political message concerning a democracy's need for an informed citizenry. I hope that won't stop younger audiences from enjoying it. Me, I had a ball."
Scott Brown, NY Magazine: "And then there's Arianda, the play's animating ambrosia and, without a doubt, the most exciting find of the Broadway season. To my regret, I missed her in last season's Venus in Fur, but seeing her now, I understand the already radiant reputation this absurdly talented performer has quickly and justly earned. Channeling just a dram of Judy Holliday's legendary performance-her original Billie's strangled Betty Boop soprano, her ditzy-like-a-fox scene pivots-Arianda takes the physical comedy further, but never too far: Whether she's trying to outrun the train of her peignoir or pouring herself a brimming water glass of gin, she invests everything she touches with comic energy."
Melissa Rose Bernardo, Entertainment Weekly: "There are very few shows in which the set earns more applause than its top-billed TV stars, but the breezy Broadway revival of the 1946 comedy Born Yesterday is one of them. John Lee Beatty has designed a radiant art deco gem of a hotel suite with gilded fixtures, glimmering onyx woodwork, ruby-red upholstery, and satiny sapphire walls. Topped off by fat swirls of curlicue chalk-white molding, it is - just as playwright Garson Kanin dictated in his stage directions - 'a masterpiece of offensive good taste.' No wonder it trumps Robert Sean Leonard's entrance. And, a few minutes later, Jim Belushi's entrance. But after Nina Arianda slinks her way down the center staircase, curtsies clumsily, and storms back up the steps, the set doesn't seem quite as glossy. As bubble-headed bottle blonde Billie Dawn - a role that won Judy Holliday an Oscar in 1950 - Arianda is giving a performance that could be called breakout, though breakout somehow seems insufficient.
Matt Windman, amny.com: "The play, which revolves around corruption in big business and politics, couldn't be timelier. And the acting in Doug Hughes' excellent new production couldn't be better or more thrilling, especially from actor Jim Belushi and newcomer Nina Arianda."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: So, what does it take to drain the humor from a classic Broadway comedy like "Born Yesterday?" Garson Kanin's stinging 1946 satire on the unholy (and apparently eternal) business alliances struck by avaricious American entrepreneurs with corrupt Washington politicians can hardly be called dated. But something is decidedly off about the sensibility of helmer Doug Hughes's production, which stars Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard and introduces Nina Arianda as the adorable bubblehead Billie Dawn. Bad enough the leads maintain a wary distance from one another and seem to distrust their own characters; they don't even seem to like the play.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: Watching these two lock horns is so pleasurable, you want to see them again as soon as the curtain comes down.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: That's what I call a rebirth. A new face has breathed fresh life into "Born Yesterday" at the Cort Theatre. Not that Garson Kanin's 1946 comedy was even a little tired. It is as deliciously witty and pungent as when it was born. But it takes a special actress in the key role of Billie Dawn - the dumb blond who outsmarts her junk-dealer tycoon boyfriend - to make the play more than funny and to make you fall in love. With the knockout newcomer Nina Arianda center stage, be prepared to fall hard, fast and completely. If you missed her last year as a dominatrix downtown in "Venus in Fur," you probably don't know her work.
Michael Musto, The Village Voice: Well, while Holliday was alternately woozy and growling, Arianda takes it to a higher pitch. Using a Cyndi Lauperish voice and accent, she laughs loudly and barks even more so. Her emotions are full throttle, whether she's being a child, seductress, or whistleblower. Fortunately, Arianda's got the comic chops to pull this off, especially when she can't think of her own real name or uses her foot to count.
Robert Feldberg, The Bergen Record: "Born Yesterday" can, I think, be a much more effective play than it is here. What we see offers some laughs, but, mostly, shows its age of 65 years.
Jonathan Mandell, The Faster Times: "Still, "Born Yesterday," at 65, need not be retired. It still works when there is the right chemistry among the three principal actors. (It is a measure of how old this play is that its cast numbers 15: hotel staff, advisers, the senator and his wife.) Both Jim Belushi and Robert Sean Leonard are playing familiar characters for them - Belushi (now star of the TV show "The Defenders") brash, easily annoyed; Leonard (best-known now for "House") intelligent and sardonic. But their characterizations lack the full comic gusto and energy to play perfectly off of Nina Arianda. Belushi's brashness leans too much towards scary, especially in a scene that we would now label domestic violence, and Leonard's supposed ardor for Billie seems a bit too detached. There is enough of a spark here to expect that these interactions will improve with time."
Linda Winer, Newsday: "The play is part "Snooki Comes to Washington," part "Pygmalion." Without a fabulously clever ditz in the tootsie role, however, this can be just a familiar old vehicle that confronts power ethics with the innocence of a sweet old civics lesson."
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