Ripped from the headlines: Parents kill to get kid into prestige school. You saw it on Law and Order. Now Eric Coble’s Bright Ideas gives you the comic-book version in which sparks of hilarity ignite from a scrap heap of clichés.
Consumed by the belief that the right pre-school guarantees their tot a ticket to Harvard, Genevra Bradley (Seana Kofoed) and her husband, Joshua (Paul Fitzgerald), poison the rich-bitch mom whose kid stands between their son and a coveted place at the posh Bright Ideas. As with Lady Macbeth and her Lord, whose gory rise the playwright parodies, the Bradleys’ murderous deed breeds further bloodshed, madness, and, yes, vengeful apparitions.
Kofoed, an inspired comedienne with a quirky, jerky energy, delivers rapturous farcical moments. Screwing her courage to the sticking place, her eyes shooting demented darts, she plunges both arms deep into the poisoned pesto meant for her dinner guest, and, dripping green slime, asks the heavens—her kitchen ceiling—whether her hands will ever wash clean. With Fitzgerald playing Genevra’s deliriously disintegrating weaker link, and an able ensemble (Linda Marie Larson, Orlagh Cassidy, and Colman Domingo) running riot as a host of parents and teachers, John Rando’s antic, effervescent direction makes for some raucous physical comedy.
Like Shakespeare, Coble locates the murder at the midpoint of the tale, but his cartoon characters become only more cartoonish, and the play self-destructs after intermission. Its fatal flaw, however, is the generic quality of the writing, which creates no recognizable pre-school scene or parents. For all its humor, Bright Ideas lacks the human depth and resonance of genuine comedy. Many good efforts by the whole class, but no gold star for the play.