Use your words
We’re living in the era of the über parents. Ours is a landscape dotted with obsessive moms and dads who believe the only acceptable kid is the exceptional kid. These over-thinking parental units read books, cite statistics and quote experts, all in the pursuit of the perfect child.
It’s a phenomenon that’s just ripe for comedic picking, which playwright Eric Coble does with mischievous gusto in Bright Ideas. His dark farce highlights tightly wound parents Genevra (Dana Brooke) and Joshua (Peter Story), who are fixated on getting their little Mac into the perfect preschool, Bright Ideas. Unfortunately, Coble’s play eventually runs out of bright ideas of its own.
Coble starts us off with two successful professionals who are panicked because their son is reaching “the big four.” The fourth birthday is a pivotal milestone in a child’s life, according to the petty park parents who spend all of their time comparing and competing. But don’t think Genevra and Joshua haven’t planned ahead. They got precious Mac on Bright Ideas’ waiting list as soon as he was born. Now Mac’s one slot away from preschool nirvana, and the only thing standing in his way is one pesky child.
So, when Genevra says in passing that she’d just “kill” to get Mac in, you sense where this quirky comedy is heading. Although the premise is absurd, in the first act Coble manages to make this black comedy believable, even as we witness death by pesto and Kenny G. It’s the Sweeney Todd of the toddler set, with nods to Macbeth.
However, after the big buildup and payoff of the first act, there is really nowhere to go. Coble tries to kick the absurdities up a notch by spreading the evilness into the school, but the premise has played itself out, and the scenes turn from deliciously demented to downright disturbing.
But what saves this production is not only the humorous first half (and some clever moments in the second), but also a finely tuned cast and director Buck Busfield, who do the best with the material handed to them. Brooke is fun to watch as she slowly slides into psychosis, as is Story as her goodhearted, soused spouse. David Pierini, Tate Hanyok and Elisabeth Nunziato are a kick as the other obsessed parents and a dozen other characters. These B Street regulars put the “fun” in dysfunctional.