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LETTERS TO EDITOR
by Les Gutman
The competition to get into the best pre-school is fierce. So Joshua raced from the delivery room to place their newborn on the waiting list at Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy. As the child's fourth birthday (a pivotal time, we are told) approaches, they've made it to the top of the list, but to take the last step requires extraordinary measures.
Enter Denise (Orlagh Cassidy), Genevra's supercilious (and competitive) co-worker, the proud divorced mother of a Bright Ideas toddler. Getting rid of Denise would kill two birds with one stone. (Were she not around, her child would no doubt end up out of town, with its father, and out of Bright Ideas.) Having invited Denise to dinner, a plan is hatched to poison her -- the execution of which is worthy of an episode of I Love Lucy. And in Genevra, a monster is born.
Bright Ideas began its life at The Cleveland Play House and has enjoyed other stagings before arriving in New York. Playwright Eric Coble has built a very funny, dark, resonant play which manages to echo Sweeney Todd in its delirium while transforming Joshua into its Lady Macbeth. (References to the Scottish play are abundant.)
The first act races at a fever pitch with which the second act can't really compete. In the latter, Genevra becomes increasingly psychotic as she demonstrates she "won't stop halfway to perfection". She also has an affair with another parent (Colman Domingo); meanwhile, Joshua takes to the bottle. The finalé finds everyone at the kid's 4th birthday party, including a gun-toting Genevra and (in a further bow to Macbeth) the appearance of Denise's ghost, in a costume in which designer Gregory Gale outdoes himself.
John Rando's direction makes impressive use of Rob Odoriso's set, which nimbly serves a wide variety of scenes. He also succeeds in rendering the central couple outrageous and yet oddly sympathetic, hysterical but thought-provoking as they reflect on bizarre contemporary motivations. Both Kofoed and Fitzgerald perform quite effectively. The remainder of the cast, consisting of Mr. Domingo, Ms. Cassidy as well as Linda Marie Larson, is called upon to portray a range of characters, all nicely executed. If Ms. Cassidy makes the greatest impression, it's because she's given more to play with.
We may not know anyone who takes things to the extremes Genevra does, but Bright Ideas is a cautionary story we are well advised to ponder as we enjoy it.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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