- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

“Bright Ideas” takes a broad shot at the bizarre phenomenon of competitive parenting, as typified by Genevra and Joshua, a wealthy, aggressive young couple who are plotting Junior’s every move toward Harvard and thence to the American presidency even before the poor kid is weaned.

Education can never start too early with this crowd. (They’ve already been spinning Mozart CDs for him from birth.) Other kids’ moms are an inconvenience, and money is never an object in their surreal world.

Genevra and Joshua are well-groomed yuppie scum living, of course, in suburbia, although their attitudes, experience and decor have a New York, upper East Side feel. Both are high-powered businesspeople, and they have determined that their 3-year old son is doomed unless he gets into the proper progressive nursery school, Bright Ideas. How important is Bright Ideas? Genevra and Joshua are willing to beg, borrow, steal, go into hock, and perhaps even whack someone to accomplish their insane objectives.

But getting into Bright Ideas is the easy part. Genevra becomes obsessed with the perceived educational deficiencies of the school itself and embarks on a one-woman crusade to remake the institution in her own image — with disastrous consequences.

“Bright Ideas” is crisply directed by Ed Herendeen. The play has a few dull patches, and its crazed (though nicely choreographed) grand finale could use a bit of rewriting. In our current economic and international environment, however, it’s nice to get lost for an hour or two in a thicket of silliness that also posts a prudent warning to overachievers: slow down.

Eric Coble’s drama has its poignant moments, too, and his social criticism hits its mark.

Those parents most likely to be obsessed with wealth and fulfillment for their children are often themselves the product of dysfunctional homes. Joshua and Genevra are a case in point. Both from the wrong side of the tracks, their own intelligence, drive and stick-to-it-iveness have rewarded them with a large measure of success. But unlike those to the manor born, they live in constant terror that their newfound fortunes could be ripped away from them in an instant. It is their paranoid fear that drives them to amorality and self-destructively anti-social behavior.

Mr. Coble wisely doesn’t lay it on too thick, and in “Bright Ideas” the laughs come early and often, the sight gags are priceless and the brisk attitude is winning.

The play’s central characters are superbly realized by Jennifer Mudge and Lee Sellars. They are ably supported by Carolyn Swift, Daniel Cantor and Catherine Curtin in a variety of eccentric and amusing supporting roles. The play’s final moments also feature an uproarious, uncredited appearance by Aaron Kliner as a giant beaver. (Don’t ask.)

**1/2

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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