OpenStage’s “Bright Ideas” is dark comedy of a couple’s desire to place their three-year-old son in the “best” pre-school.

Jessica Emerling Crow spirals into madness in her desire to climb the social ladder.

Reviewed by Tom Jones
January 14, 2017

Shakespeare used three witches in “Macbeth” to chant “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” as they stirred poison in their boiling cauldron in a dark cave. Later they had a difficult time with “out damn spot” trying to remove emotional and physical evidence of their potion. Genevra Bradley, excellently portrayed by Jessica Emerling Crow, in “Bright Ideas” uses her Cuisinart to mix up a potion in her kitchen that will hopefully provide the desired poisonous result – pesto sauce. Genevra is the three witches rolled up into one unfortunate housewife, desperately trying to get ahead.

Bas Meindertsma as Josh and Jessica Emerling Crow as Genevra in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Bright Ideas by Eric Coble, photography by Kate Austin-Groen Photography

“Bright Ideas” by prolific playwright Eric Cobble is quite a tale. A young couple, Genevra and Joshua Bradley, are on the cusp of finally “making it,” although financial concerns are always present. Their current goal is to become socially accepted by placing their three-year-old son in the area’s best pre-school – Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy. Time is against them, as their acquaintances report that the care of a child rests only with the family until age four – then the education system takes over. Their son’s fourth birthday is only a few weeks away. The Bradleys and their “friends” are all basically snobs, trying to outdo the others – primarily through the success of their children in the Academy. Admission to the school is a highly-desired goal, and the Bradley’s child is now number one on the waiting list. They MUST find a way to get that boy into that school.

David Austin-Groen as Mr. Scott in OpenStage Theatre’s production of Bright Ideas by Eric Coble, photography by Kate Austin-Groen Photography

Playwright Coble zeros in on the social come-uppance of some parents. Even if they get their children into the “right school,” their desires for becoming better accepted are a continuing worry. Crow and Bas Meindertsma are the young couple, whose plight becomes tragically comical as the tale progresses. They are assisted by Heather Lawrence, David Austin-Groen, and Elizabeth Kirchmeier portraying other characters in the story. The ensemble become parents of children in the Academy, teachers and other professionals willing to give advice – for a fee.

The cast is extremely hard working. Sometimes too hard-working, as the result is occasionally off-putting with so much action and yelling. In the performance I attended an annoyance came from a too-enthusiastic theatergoer who laughed loudly before lines were delivered – not giving the audience a chance to hear each one-liner.

The set is basic, but very clever and efficient, and proves to be an important part of the show. Debbie Swann is director. She received the OPUS Award for her OpenStage performance in “Spring Awakening. Bright Ideas” is her directing debut for the company.

“Bright Ideas” is an interesting, thoughtful, and disturbing experience. It is an eye-opener of what prices are paid to reach the higher strata of a society — a society that isn’t nearly as wonderful and comforting as some may perceive.

“Bright Ideas”
Where: OpenStage Theatre production, on the Magnolia Theatre Stage of Lincoln Center.
417 West Magnolia Street, Fort Collins.
When: Through February 4, 2017
Tickets: 970/221-6730
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