Bright Ideas Theatre Review - A Brilliant Macbethian Black Comedy Metriculates at ICT

                              

Preschool. One of the first critical choices every parent must make for their child. A monumental decision that’s right up there with Breast or Bottle feeding. A choice that must be gotten right at all costs. Having come from less than prestigious backgrounds, Genevra and Joshua Bradley (Amie Farrell & Brian Stanton) are both painfully aware of this fact, which is why they signed up for admittance to  preschool upon the birth of their son Mac. Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy is the best, a feeder preschool to the feeder schools whose students overwhelmingly attend Yale, Princeton and Harvard. The Bradleys are determined to give their son Mac every advantage in life, which means getting into Bright Ideas. The problem is: although Mac is at the top of the waiting list, the very next child to be selected, the school has reached capacity and has no more spots for new children.

(rear)Louis Lortorto, Brian Stanton, (front) Heather Corwin & Amie Farrell in "Bright Ideas"

                                                           The Bradleys befriend a couple they meet at the park. Ross (Louis Lotorto) and Lynzie (Heather Corwin) have two children in Bright Ideas and are expecting their third in a few months. They are the ones that convince the Bradleys that time is running out. With less than two months away from Mac’s fourth birthday, the Bradleys have precious little time to shape Mac into the smart, well-adjusted person he will be for the rest of his life. When a child turns four, it’s game over. Even Genevra’s co-worker Denise (Meghan Maureen McDonough) got her son into Bright Ideas, although her child’s admittance probably had more to do with her donation to the school of the new aquatics center. Feelings frustrated, cheated and desperate, the Bradley’s realize they have no choice but to kill Denise in order to make room for Mac in Bright Ideas.

The plan is simple: Invite Denise over for dinner, poison the pesto, make it look like a heart attack, her son then goes to live with his father out of state and Mac is in! The execution however, is marred with hesitation and cold feet, disorganization and guilt. But they are nevertheless successful.

"Bright Ideas" currently running at International City Theatre in Long Beach, CA now thru September 20th

                                                          However, once Mac gets into Bright Ideas, the couple discover that there are all sorts of other things they must do it ensure that their son has all the advantages at success: tutors, coaches… Despite their lack of money and resources, getting away with murder has emboldened Genevra. She becomes more resolved than ever – one might even say obsessed – with making sure that Mac has the leg up in life; the leg up that she and husband Joshua never had. And she had got to do it by Mac's fourth birthday.

This show is hysterical. Eric Coble’s darkly comic play makes an extreme examination of  the very real, elitist and competitive world of  “Preschool Wars” through the looking glass. The play is a wickedly playful and absurd depiction of how twisted a parents love can become, particularly when that love becomes a warped projection of that parent's own insecurity and pride. caryn desai’s [sic] direction of Bright Ideas takes the absurdity of excessive parental devotion, wraps it in a richly textured yet sparse, abstract set, adds a healthy dash of Macbeth and lovingly ties it all together with a bright bow of screwball comedy. 

Amie Farrell and Brian Stanton were simply great as Genevra and Joshua, respectively. Farrell’s pseudo-Macbeth to Stanton’s quasi-Lady Macbeth were the perfect counter balance for one another; particularly in the second act when the roles reverse and Genevra feels more and more indestructible while Joshua slowly succumbs to guilt, only made bearable by his growing alcoholism.  The allusions to The Scottish Play are great and small in this play, and will definitely warm the hearts of the Shakespeare devotees in the audience. (‘… is this a blender I see before me…’)

Meghan Maureen McDonough and Amie Farrell in "Bright Ideas"

Meghan Maureen McDonough, Louis Lotorto and Heather Corwin do a phenomenal job of playing the ensemble, filling this world with peripheral characters, in addition to playing their principal parts within the show. The lightning fast costume changes and fluid shifts in character roles are impressive. All performances were energetic with beautiful rhythm and timing among the players; across the board every actor was just great. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this production of Bright Ideas. It is a must-see for any new parent who “wants the best” for their child. I think the play argues that sometimes, what’s best for a child is completely attainable without resorting to homicide. Sometimes, what a child needs is simply affection, attention and love.

Bright Ideas runs August 25th thru September 20th at:

International City Theatre
Long Beach Performing Arts Center
300 E. Ocean Blvd
Long Beach CA 90802

Tickets: $29 - $42

For More Information call: (562) 436-4610

or www.InternationalCityTheatre.com.

Photo Credit: Shashin Desai

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