Nursery University, a documentary released last year, explores the ultra-competitive world of elite preschools in New York. Although I haven’t seen the film, it confirms the existence of the bizarre reality that is being explored in Urban Samurai’s current production Bright Ideas. Still, not being a parent, I can’t say that I completely relate to Eric Cole’s script, which depicts one couple’s journey to get their child into a prestigious preschool. It’s an interesting commentary on our society today, but ultimately it falls a little short of being a successful piece of theater.
Bright Ideas, directed by Jimmy LeDuc, follows the story of Joshua Bradley (Josh Carson) and his wife Genevra (Marcia Svaleson), who put their son Mac on the waiting list for the Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy the day he is born. Now, just months away from his fourth birthday, the Bradleys find themselves next in line to have their child attend the school. Still, with their son’s looming birthday (apparently the fourth birthday is the most pivotal), the up-until-this-point average couple decide to take manners into their own hands. In this dark comedy, it seems no means is off-limits to justify the ends—even if it’s poisoning pesto to off the parent of another child at the school.
|bright ideas, playing through may 23 at the sabes jewish community center. for tickets ($10-$16) and information, see urbansamurai.org.|
While Bright Ideas is a humorous, often exaggerated, look at a frightening reality, the motivation behind the Bradleys’ extreme actions seems scanty. Sure, they want the best for their child and are envious of other kids who have thrived at the school, but beyond those broad arguments, their actions seem to be more about them falling off the deep end than striving for some higher social status. And it doesn’t stop there. Once Mac is officially enrolled in Bright Ideas, Genevra goes all sorts of crazy—harassing teachers, embezzling money from work, and planning her son’s schedule down to the minute. While her actions are a bit mad, they’re also welcome, if only for the fact that Svaleson does a good job playing crazy. Some over-the-top acting in earlier scenes pays off more successfully in the second half.
As Joshua Bradley, Carson is given a range of emotions to play, from doting father to scheming cohort to alcoholic. Carson is hilarious in the second act, performing the majority of it as if in a drunken stupor and claiming numerous laughs. The rest of the cast, comprising Courtney Miner, Mykel Pennington, and C. Ryan Shipley are all equally as impressive portraying a number of characters that come in and out of the Bradleys’ lives. Most notable is a fed-up flight attendant (Shipley) and the doomed Denise (Pennington). Scenery drawn on chalkboards and familiar childhood songs played between scenes are nice elements.
The cast makes the most of a confused script, providing many laughs along the way, but never quite diving deep enough to really get to the bottom of what made this couple crack.