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‘Born Yesterday’ here today 

Rep founder Baker back to direct Garson Kanin’s hit 1940s comedy.

DAWN, BROCK: Hess, Coopwood.
  • DAWN, BROCK: Hess, Coopwood.

Garson Kanin’s 1940s classic American romantic comedy, “Born Yesterday,” opens a two-week run at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre on Friday, March 16. Patrons can catch a sneak preview of the show and discussion with director Cliff Fannin Baker tonight (March 15) at 7:15 p.m.

Opening night showtime Friday is 8 p.m., and includes a post-show reception with the cast. The play runs through April 1.

Baker, the Rep’s founder and its artist director for its first 23 years, returns for what has become his annual directorial effort of the season. Most recently he has been directing for Portland Center Stage in Oregon and will later travel to Beijing, to direct at Peking University.

“Born Yesterday” is set in a Washington, D.C., hotel room in 1946.

Baker said, “Rarely does a play 60 years old have the contemporary relevance of ‘Born Yesterday.’ ”

A rags-to-riches scrap metal magnate, his floozy girlfriend, and a has-been lawyer scheme to bribe a crooked senator to get a questionable bill passed and make them rich. An idealistic reporter is brought into the picture by the steel man to help educate his girlfriend. While he’s busy with lessons about politics, she teaches him a few things as well. With Kanin blending elements of George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion” into a funny story about political corruption, what the audience sees on stage are daggers thrown at political shenanigans, romance and the battle of the sexes.

“Money is still many people’s God; corruption still exists in Washington; women still defy stereotypes,” Baker said. “ ‘Born Yesterday’ still rings true. ‘Born Yesterday’ is a social comedy with wit, satire and humanism; it really has some kick to it.”

Kanin’s play ran four years on Broadway and was made into a movie in 1950 (and remade in 1993). Ed Asner and Madeline Kahn starred in the 1989 Broadway revival.

The Rep’s cast of 10 brings experience on Broadway, in film and TV. Scott Coopwood is Harry Brock, the wealthy tycoon; Joan Hess is Billie Dawn, Brock’s gullible girlfriend; Stafford Clark Price, who has played in three Shakespeare plays for the Rep, is the journalist, Paul Verrall. Don Adler is Brock’s attorney; and Mark Enis is Brock’s tag-along brother.

Mark Whitman Johnson and Judy Trice, familiar local faces to Rep fans, are also part of the cast, along with locals Ian Moore, Paige Reynolds and Jason Thompson.

Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Wednesday, March 14, performance will be sign-interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Tickets are $35 and $20. For reservations, call 378-0405, 866-684-3838 or visit wwwtherep.org via the Internet.

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