The second surprise is the veil of complexity lent by the passage of sixty years since the script was written. Time, plus skilled direction, has given the script some subtle shading that can't have been there when the play was performed in its own era. The story turns on a simple notion that the treasures of the mind will prevail over filthy lucre. But you'll perhaps feel, as I did, that some of the ideas Kanin cherished as enduring intellectual treasures now look quaint, while the sudden eruption of the wisecracking Billie Dawn and her sugar daddy into a scene of timeless, realistic domestic violence tells a story Kanin didn't see.
Jeff Daniels chose the script and originally intended to direct Born Yesterday himself but was unexpectedly pressed into service in Hollywood. Instead it was directed by Suzi Regan, who deserves double praise for birthing a project conceived by someone else.
Born Yesterday is at the Purple Rose Theater every Wednesday through Sunday through June 15.
[Originally published in May, 2002.]