The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings


SEARCH CurtainUp



Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
NYC Weather
A CurtainUp Review
Bright Ideas

by Les Gutman

You've got to ask -- "how much do I love my child?"

Paul Fitzgerald and Seana Kofoed
P. Fitzgerald and S. Kofoed
(Photo: Dixie Sheridan)
The news is filled with stories about terrible parents -- those who neglect or abuse their children, and also those who obsess about them (oftentimes allowing their own shortcomings to translate into sick vicarious ambitions for their young innocent offspring). Bright Ideas falls dangerously in the latter category, as Genevra (Seana Kofoed) and Joshua (Paul Fitzgerald), the parents of a three year old, go to felonious extremes to ensure their child is a winner. Parenthood is a dog-eat-dog world.

The competition to get into the best pre-school is fierce. So Joshua raced from the delivery room to place their newborn on the waiting list at Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy. As the child's fourth birthday (a pivotal time, we are told) approaches, they've made it to the top of the list, but to take the last step requires extraordinary measures.

Enter Denise (Orlagh Cassidy), Genevra's supercilious (and competitive) co-worker, the proud divorced mother of a Bright Ideas toddler. Getting rid of Denise would kill two birds with one stone. (Were she not around, her child would no doubt end up out of town, with its father, and out of Bright Ideas.) Having invited Denise to dinner, a plan is hatched to poison her -- the execution of which is worthy of an episode of I Love Lucy. And in Genevra, a monster is born.

Bright Ideas began its life at The Cleveland Play House and has enjoyed other stagings before arriving in New York. Playwright Eric Coble has built a very funny, dark, resonant play which manages to echo Sweeney Todd in its delirium while transforming Joshua into its Lady Macbeth. (References to the Scottish play are abundant.)

The first act races at a fever pitch with which the second act can't really compete. In the latter, Genevra becomes increasingly psychotic as she demonstrates she "won't stop halfway to perfection". She also has an affair with another parent (Colman Domingo); meanwhile, Joshua takes to the bottle. The finalé finds everyone at the kid's 4th birthday party, including a gun-toting Genevra and (in a further bow to Macbeth) the appearance of Denise's ghost, in a costume in which designer Gregory Gale outdoes himself.

John Rando's direction makes impressive use of Rob Odoriso's set, which nimbly serves a wide variety of scenes. He also succeeds in rendering the central couple outrageous and yet oddly sympathetic, hysterical but thought-provoking as they reflect on bizarre contemporary motivations. Both Kofoed and Fitzgerald perform quite effectively. The remainder of the cast, consisting of Mr. Domingo, Ms. Cassidy as well as Linda Marie Larson, is called upon to portray a range of characters, all nicely executed. If Ms. Cassidy makes the greatest impression, it's because she's given more to play with.

We may not know anyone who takes things to the extremes Genevra does, but Bright Ideas is a cautionary story we are well advised to ponder as we enjoy it.

Bright Ideas
by Eric Coble
Directed by John Rando
with Orlagh Cassidy, Colman Domingo, Paul Fitzgerald, Seana Kofoed and Linda Marie Larson
Set Design: Rob Odoriso
Lighting Design: James Vermeulen
Costume Design: Gregory A. Gale
Original Music and Sound Design: Fabian Obispo
Fight Direction: Rick Sordelet
Hair and Wig Design: Darlene Dannenfelser
A production of MCC Theater
Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes with 1 intermission
East 13th Street Theatre (Classic Stage Company), 136 East 13th Street (3/4 Avs.)
Telephone: (212) 279-4200
TUES @ 7, WED - SAT @8, SAT - SUN @2:30 (additional performances 11/23 and 30 @8, no performances 11/25-27; $47.50
Opening November 12, 2003, closing December 7, 2003
Reviewed by Les Gutman based on 11/8/03 performance

Mendes at the Donmar
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers

The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century

metaphors dictionary cover
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from