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LA Theater Review

Bright Ideas

The idea that parents might sign up their newborns for their alma maters at birth is absurd enough on its face. But when playwright Eric Coble takes this idea and runs with it, almost anything can happen. The overwrought, quirkily pathological parents in his story begin a series of maneuvers that escalate into farcical mayhem.

When Genevra Bradley (Amie Farrell) and her husband, Joshua (Brian Stanton), are led to believe that Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy is the steppingstone to upward mobility and a brilliant college education, they begin a strategic plan to eliminate any impediments in the way of their 3-year-old son's admittance. Nothing is left to chance, and the master plotter, Genevra, is even willing to commit murder à la Lady Macbeth to get the job done. As Genevra mixes up poisoned pesto pasta, she intones, "Is this a mortar and pestle, its handle toward my hand?"

This is black comedy with a slightly frantic overtone, and Caryn Desai directs sharply to take a very slight story line and escalate the stratagems of its protagonists to near-Machiavellian politics.

Louis Lotorto, Heather Corwin, and Meghan Maureen McDonough capably fill in as an assortment of hapless bystanders who come in contact with the Bradleys: a preschool director, a paramour of Genevra's, his very pregnant wife, a set of snooty preschool parents, and an enunciation specialist, to name a few. Jared A. Sayeg's lighting design cleverly provides scene breaks, and Stephen Gifford's simple yet effective set stylishly adds to the show. Coble's story could be pared down to better effect, but the actors in this production get a chance to test their chops as they lampoon very stereotypical characters in the world of parents and schools.

Presented by and at International City Theatre, Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. Aug. 28-Sept. 20. Thu.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. (562) 436-4610.

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