Born Yesterday: Summarized

I've never seen the movie version of Born Yesterday or watched a production.  It took a good ten minutes until I was absolutely positive that yes, I'd read the play back in a History of Comedy class.  I vaguely remembered thinking the play felt dated, the ditz blonde character seemed cliche and unremarkable, and the whole show seemed incredibly unripe for even a Roundabout revival.

The plot:
Robert Sean Leonard enters a fancy hotel room and has a nice conversation with a waitress and leaves.  We have no idea who he is or why he's inside this hotel room that's not his.

Then Jim Belushi enters with his wife, played kind of like a dumber Kristen Schaal by hilarious Broadway newcomer Nina Arianda.  Also, she drinks so much vodka, you'd think that they were actually using water in the prop bottle!  Jim Belushi establishes over and over how he's incredibly rich from something scrapmetaling-related, but is also probably the millionaire with the least manners ever (just in case you should accidentally like his character.  Robert Sean Leonard enters, starts to interview Jim Belushi, and leaves partway through for Plot Necessity.

Jim Belushi and his advisor, The Evil Politician from Angels In America (in a random encore performance as just that), invite over an Old Senator to bribe into passing the vaguest law imaginable.  Don't worry if you have trouble with the law details, because all that matters is that it's a Very Evil Law.  Nina Arianda says lots of ditzy funny one liners and Jim Belushi and Evil Politician realize that she needs to be educated to act smarter because--PLOT TWIST--she actually owns most of the company on paper.  So they decide to hire Wilson from House to do it, which to me sounds like a great solution to most things in life.  Robert Sean Leonard, up till now characterized as a very intelligent very moral hardworking reporter, suddenly has no obligations in his life at all and decides to educate Nina Arianda.  We see that happen and Nina Arianda becomes book-smart but one-liner-dumb.  Robert Sean Leonard talks about how much he's in love with Nina Arianda, because you wouldn't really be able to tell from Acting or anything else that isn't Pure Assumption.  

Then Nina finds out about the terrible Evil Law and wants to leave Jim Belushi.  Jim Belushi hits her, just in case you weren't sure he was the bad guy yet.  Then she threatens that she actually owns most of the company and rams it down the audience's throat that they are following a crappy version of Democracy before leaving with Robert Sean Leonard.

What makes this revival work is Nina Arianda, who I'm now wishing I saw in Venus in Fur.  The girl knows how to carry a scene, especially considering that Robert Sean Leonard's character is barely given anything to do (and sadly, also doesn't do much with lack of anything to do).  The character could have been a ditz that sort of goes through a sudden unbelievable turnaround.  Director Doug Hughes and Arianda turn the character of Billie Dawn into a girl who is less dumb and more a self-indulgent alcoholic because of how unhappy she is with Belushi's character, and it really fills the character (and the whole play) out.

I'm mildly disappointed that Act 3 wasn't trimmed down heavily, particularly considering that the intermission was placed between Acts 1 and 2.  Act 3 mostly consists of Arianda and Leonard telling Belushi all about democracy and how America should be, Evil Politician nodding his head mornfully for the entire act as he agrees with everything she has to say, and 15 too-many minutes to an ending that you predicted in Act 1.  

Why can we cut the fat from Shakespeare, but not something first performed in 1946?

Born Yesterday isn't a must-see, but it's entertaining and a fun night in theatre.  Nina Arianda makes this show.  Catch her before she inevitably gets called away to Hollywood and we lose another wonderful theatre performer.  

Isn't that right, Wilson?  Now go convince Hugh Laurie to be Henry Higgins.


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