By Cory Bilicko
Who a child is by his third birthday is who he’ll be the rest of his life.
That belief, allegedly based on some educational studies, becomes the catalyst that gets a pair of apparently normal parents to hatch some crazy schemes to land their kid in the top-notch preschool Bright Ideas in the Eric Coble play of the same name.
Genevra and Joshua Bradley are the young mom and dad who’ve elevated their social status in life through hard work and perseverance but suddenly feel panicked by the threat of having to settle for less than the best of preschools for their son, who’s fast approaching his Fourth Birthday, the point of no return in preschool circles. (They’re still wait-listed despite having signed him up the day he was born.)
What begins as a modern comedy of manners promptly turns into black comedy, as the Bradleys decide to kill off one of the single moms whose child attends Bright Ideas, in an effort to free up a spot at the preschool. Their plan works, but it also fuels their obsession that nearly snowballs into a genocide of any parents or faculty who get in the way of their child’s path to the Ivy League.
In International City Theatre’s current production of Bright Ideas, three other actors (Heather Corwin, Louis Lotorto and Meghan Maureen McDonough) successfully and entertainingly play various roles (upper-crust parents, school principal, athletic coach, enunciation specialist, flight attendant, to name a few) as the Bradleys’ (Amie Farrell and Brian Stanton) profound parental love (and deep-rooted fears) propel them to risk their own welfare for the sake of their kid’s future. Watching the small cast tackle so many parts so seamlessly and with such broad range is one of the treats of the production. The actors are so convincing and versatile that it’s fun to try to figure out who’s who, and Bright Ideas is farcical enough that we can do that without its distracting us from the story of Genevra’s and Joshua’s downward spiral toward the impending deadline of the fourth-birthday party.
Fortunately, there’s no waiting list to see Bright Ideas, which continues at International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., through Sept. 20. Tickets are $32 to $42.