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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Stage Tonight - "Born Yesterday"

My pal Dave Lavender provides this look inside Marshall University Department of Theatre's production Born Yesterday, which starts tonight!

You can read the story here, (with photos by Mark Webb) or here:
On a Sunday afternoon that reached nearly 70 degrees, Marshall University students Chuck Herndon, Jeremy Plyburn and Dylan Clark had their own little iceberg of cool happening sporting retro three-piece suits and dress hats like they just walked off the set of the Mad Men.

"We've thought about wearing the suits to class because you know everybody would be like, 'what's going on with those guys and where are they going to,'" Clark said with a laugh. "It's like we found a hot tub time machine, and it went back to 1950."

Yes, they did ladies, and the scotch is flowing, and the mad money is blowing into Washington.

Herndon, Plyburn and Clark are just three of a cast of about a dozen Marshall students tackling the Garson Kanin-written political comedy, Born Yesterday, that runs 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center on the campus of Marshall University.

Tickets are $20 to $12 and free for MU students with a valid ID.

Tabbed as one of America's original screwball comedies, the 1950-set political-satire sets a love story inside the comedic drama that splays open a topic that could be ripped from the today's newspaper -- Washington's pay-for-play politics.

Made into a movie in 1950, Born Yesterday was nominated for four Oscars and won Judy Holliday, who plays the character Billie Dawn in the film, a Best Actress Oscar.

John Goodman, Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson starred in a remake of Born Yesterday in 1993.

Marshall University professor Gene Anthony, who is directing the play, said although this is the third time he's directed the poignant yet playful production, it can hardly be more timely.

The U.S. Supreme Court just ruled to lift restrictions on how much corporations can contribute to American political campaigns.

And on campus, the College of Fine Arts happens to be celebrating the 2010 Marshall University Birke Fine Arts Symposium this month with a theme of "Giving Voice: Social Justice and the Arts" as COFA's Art and Design, Music and Theatre programs reflect on how the arts have been at the forefront of social justice issues of fairness, freedom and equality.

"This ended up on the bill not to fulfill any requirements but it certainly contributes to that notion of 'giving voice,'" Anthony said. "I've directed it three times but I haven't touched it for 20 years. I was shocked when I pulled it up about how 'today' it is. Back then they called it 'influence peddling,' now it's lobbying and they don't go to jail for influencing laws even if they get caught."

Utilizing an exquisite set designed by Mike Murphy, the play's action takes place in a posh Washington hotel where self-made-millionaire, Harry Brock (played by Plyburn) is headquartered and where he and his slick lawyer Ed Devery (played by Herndon) concoct their scheme for Brock to throw his weight and power around in the beltway.

When Brock realizes his "very blond" fiancee, Billie Dawn (played by Chelsea Sanders) is in dire need of an extreme makeover, he hires a fellow resident of the hotel, a journalist named Paul Verrall (played by Clark), to give the seemingly dim-witted blonde a crash course in politics, history, literature and -- of course -- true love.

Plyburn, who charges like a bull into his role as the scotch-drinking, Jersey-born, Cleveland-based junk-yard owning scrap-metal millionaire, Brock, said he thinks the play packs a powerful message.

"It does show that money and power drive everything but it also shows a glimmer of hope that if you have one person who wants to do what's right then it can turn everything inside out in that world," Plyburn said.