Nina Arianda who last season received rave reviews for her performance in the Classic Stage Company’s production of “Venus in Fur” has wasted no time in becoming a Broadway star with her name above the title. And it’s very well deserved. She is one of the main reasons if not the only reason to go see this rather slow paced revival of “Born Yesterday” which has recently opened at the Cort Theatre. Written by Garson Kanin in 1946 the role of Billie Dawn catapulted Judy Holliday to stardom.
Nina Arianda, a charming, beautiful and natural comedienne has made the part her own capturing the not-so-dumb blonde essence of the role and perfecting it – giving an endearing and honest performance. Billie is not so dumb as naïve and has put up with being bossed around by her cigar chomping and blustery lover Harry Brock (Jim Belushi) for far too long. An abusive braggart with power and money who is used to getting what he wants yesterday.
They are in Washington D.C. to strike a deal (read bribe) with Senator Norval Hedges (Terry Beaver) regarding the scrap metal left over in Europe after the war – a business that has made Brock a self made millionaire and able to keep Billie as his mistress in high style – with not one but two mink coats.
But as his power grows he is afraid that she just doesn’t fit in. She’s stupid. And so he hires Paul Verrall (Robert Sean Leonard) a bookish type of guy who has ulterior motives for interviewing him for an in depth article.
Reluctantly Paul accepts and as Billie begins to read, wearing her glasses and to learn – referring to the dictionary often – it begins to dawn on her that the contracts that she has been signing may not be legal. She is like a sponge, absorbing all this new information and begins standing up for her rights and falling for her teacher Mr. Verrall. It’s a beautiful transformation and Nina Arianda is superb in the role capturing every nuance imaginable, brightening every scene she is in.
If only Mr. Belushi and Mr. Leonard were up to her level of believability we might really excuse the slow route that director Doug Hughes has taken. The script still resonates with the corruption of D.C. – politics in general, and is still extremely funny. Especially the “gin rummy” scene.
The over the top hotel suite set by John Lee Beatty is a knock out. It’s amazing what $235 a night could get you back then. And what a luxury it was to have such a large cast with a barber, manicurist, Bootblack and three Bellhops without much to say. Catherine Zuber has created some fine costumes for Billie – a girl with lots of money and little taste but with a passion to learn and to value herself and to find happiness which in this case is the best revenge. It’s Nina Arianda’s show all the way!
www.bornyesterdayonbroadway.com Photo: Carol Rosegg
Tags: No Comments