On a set designed to look like a fancy hotel living room in the 1950s, a woman in a red dress and a man in a three-piece suit sit on a sofa. Four others stand around them.
The cast of the Ford’s Theatre production of Garson Kanin’s Born Yesterday, directed by Aaron Posner. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Born Yesterday

Political Satire Meets Romantic Comedy

date September 21, 2018 — October 21, 2018
duration 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15-minute intermission.
rating Recommended for 12 and older.

In this sharp-edged satire, opportunistic tycoon Harry Brock arrives in Washington with his naive girlfriend, Billie Dawn, to game the political system. With the help of an idealistic reporter, Billie wisens up and fights back to end the corruption.

Aaron Posner (Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) directs Edward Gero (Hello, Dolly!; A Christmas Carol) and Kimberly Gilbert (Jefferson’s Garden, The Laramie Project) in this 1940s screwball comedy that shows truth and justice can win the day.

Artistic Team

Writer Garson Kanin
Director Aaron Posner
Scenic Design Daniel Lee Conway
Costume Design Kelsey Hunt
Lighting Design Nancy Schertler
Sound Design and Original Music John Gromada
Hair and Make-Up Design Anne Nesmith
Production Stage Manager Brandon Prendergast
Assistant Stage Manager Julia Singer

Cast

Evan Casey

Eddie Brock

Matt Dewberry

A Bellhop/A Barber

Headshot for Edward Gero.

Edward Gero

Harry Brock

Kimberly Gilbert

Billie Dawn

Headshot of actor Eric Hissom.

Erick Hissom

Ed Devery

Naomi Jacobson

Mrs. Hedges/Helen/A Manicurist

Cody Nickell

Paul Verrall

Todd Scofield

Senator Norval Edges/Another Bellhop

Jamie Smithson

The Assistant Manager/A Bootblack/A Waiter

Synopsis

The Gist

Political Satire Meets Romantic Comedy

 

Act I

 

The play opens in Suite 67D of a swanky Washington, D.C., hotel. It is shortly after World War II.

 

In the room is Paul Verall, a reporter for the New Republic. He has come to interview Harry Brock, an opportunistic businessman who has made his fortune buying and selling scrap metal.

 

Soon, Harry Brock and his entourage arrive, including his cousin Eddie and his lawyer, Ed Devery. Ed is a Washington lawyer who once had a bright future ahead of him, but who’s cynicism has led him to work for Harry. Also accompanying Brock is Billie Dawn, his beautiful but naïve girlfriend.

 

Ed has convinced Brock to make Paul an ally to better control Harry’s public image and prevent the reporter from digging deeper into Harry’s affairs.

 

After Paul leaves, Senator Norval Hedges and his wife arrive to meet with Harry. Billie joins the group, but says all the wrong things, quickly revealing her lack of education.

 

As Harry and the senator talk, Harry reveals that he hopes to take advantage of the scrap metal left behind in Europe after the war. He has hatched a scheme to import the scrap metal back to the United States and doesn’t want to bother with tariffs and other regulations. Harry will pay Senator Hedges in exchange for a new Hedges-Keller Amendment, which will guarantee that the government will not interfere in free enterprise.

 

After Senator Hedges and his wife leave the hotel, Harry worries aloud to Ed that Billie will be a hitch in his plans. Although she doesn’t know it, Billie owns more of his company than he does.

 

Harry decides to hire Paul to “smarten her up.”

 

Act II

 

Two months have passed.

 

Billie has proven to be an eager student of Paul’s. With his guidance, Billie has gained a broader understanding of government and the ideals of American democracy. She also begins to question her relationship with Harry and how she is treated.

 

When Billie is asked by Harry to sign some documents, she soon realizes that Harry’s schemes are unfair and corrupt. She refuses to sign without learning more, sensing that something is amiss. Harry flies into a rage. Harry strikes Billie, revealing the extent of his emotional and physical abuse.

 

Frightened, Billie signs the documents and flees the hotel room.

 

Act III

 

Billie sneaks back into the hotel room with Paul’s help. The two steal the incriminating documents and embrace. It is clear that Billie and Paul have fallen for each other.

 

Harry returns to the room and announces that Billie’s tutoring with Paul will end immediately and that he has decided to marry her. Billie rejects his offer and reveals that she has taken the documents and given them to Paul to publish in the New Republic.

 

Though Harry is furious, Billie refuses to back down. Billie realizes that she has power over Harry.

 

Paul and Billie exit, leaving Harry shocked that Billie has thwarted him.

Trailer

Director Interview

From the Gallery

"Big, brash, glistening production! If you want reassurance that every vote counts and free people always need to wake up, this is the place. In [Edward] Gero’s mouthy self-absorption and [Kimberly] Gilbert’s moving transformation, ["Born Yesterday"] is alive."
– The Washington Post
"A sparkling production! Delightfully subversive! Kimberly Gilbert in the central role of Billie Dawn is the sun around which other cast members rotate. Gilbert is beyond electric. She is the Northern Lights."
– DC Metro Theater Arts
"Superb performances! Sharp-tongued humor! The true star of the show is Kimberly Gilbert who dazzles as Billie Dawn. Whether she's reciting lines from the musical 'Anything Goes' or standing up for herself against Brock's cruelty, Gilbert commands the stage."
– Broadway World
"Genuinely good, old-fashioned fun! The pace is quick, the irony high, the jokes fun. A few of the performances here are so clever they defy the limits and bring exactly the kind of warmth, humor, and wit this kind of entertainment requires."
– Metro Weekly
"Delightful and timely! Crisp dialogue and smartly drawn characters. Amazing that a play that was written 70+ years ago … could play so well and be so relevant to us today."
– The Zebra

Our Sponsors