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Senators bought and sold at the Hilberry

By D. A. Blackburn

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Last Friday, the Hilberry Theatre unveiled "Born Yesterday," a production so eerily timely that it seems to have been pulled directly from the headlines. In reality, it was written by Garson Kanin just after World War II, but in light of recent political scandals it's an extremely relevant work, reminding audiences that the struggle for honesty, transparency and justice in American politics is a long-fought and ongoing battle.
A comedic approach to a morality play, "Born Yesterday" centers on corrupt self-made millionaire Harry Brock and his mistress, Billie Dawn, a naive former chorus girl. The couple has come to Washington D. C. to "buy a senator," but it quickly becomes apparent that Billie's rough edges are a poor fit in capital society. Brock hires a local journalist, Paul Verrall, to refine Billie's charm, and along the way she discovers that her benefactor represents all that is wrong with the American political system.
The Hilberry has assembled a smart production for "Born Yesterday." The work is funny – though not a side-splitter – and thought-provoking, and the script delivers its message with a disarming clarity, to the credit of good direction (James Thomas) and a tight cast.
Brian P. Sage is confident and engaging as the brutish Harry Brock, providing the character an excellent New York accent and an imposing stage presence. As Billie Dawn, Christina Flynn's transformation from simple-minded gold-digger to fledgling intellectual – which the production ultimately hinges on – is graceful and well-executed.
As Paul Verrall, Aaron Kirby makes the politically savvy, self righteous reporter as likable as he is idealistic. Alan Ball's portrayal of Ed Devery, an alcoholic attorney torn between his loyalty to Brock and his detest for the man's character, is likewise very affecting.
The show's design elements are all well-handled, particularly in the areas of costuming and sets.
"Born Yesterday" is far smarter than its title implies, and its timely subject matter makes it an ideal fit in the Hilberry's rotating repertory.

REVIEW:
'Born Yesterday'
Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass Ave., Detroit. Plays in rotating repertory through April 11. Tickets: $10-$30. For information: 313-577-2972 or http://www.hilberry.com



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