By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Over in Fort Worth, Circle Theatre has Bright Ideas, a low-wattage comedy by Eric Coble about young parents so eager to get their toddler into the "right" preschool that they murder the mommy of the only kid higher on the waiting list, thus opening up a slot (as said kid has to move out of state to live with his dad). The plot imitates Macbeth, amusingly at first, then so closely it gets tiresome. Instead of the royal banquet scene, it's a 4-year-old's birthday party, with the ghost of the deceased super-mommy wafting through. The third or fourth time the "out, damn spot" speech is touched upon—and with pesto-covered hands instead of bloodstained—we've gotten it already and we're so over it.
What laughs there are in Bright Ideas come mainly from the work of the director, pro farceur Robin Armstrong, and the nimble-footed cast of solid comic actors. Andy Baldwin, a Circle Theatre regular, does frantically funny footwork in the dinner party scene where his character, Josh, and wife Genevra (Norah Sweeney Villanueva) nearly botch the job of serving the poisoned pasta to pushy Denise (Leslie Patrick). Recent SMU grad Morgan McClure and actor John Venable, his hair bleached butter-blond, play a variety of roles and do them all exceedingly well. Venable's funniest as a kiddie-restaurant beaver mascot bemoaning his treatment at the sticky hands of grabby moppets (the beaver get-up and all the rest are beautifully turned out by Armstrong, who's also the costume designer).
The Secretaries continues through October 29 at Margo Jones Theatre, SMU. Call 214-768-2787.
The Dog Problem continues through November 27 at Undermain Theatre. Call 214-747-5515.
Bright Ideas continues through November 20 at Circle Theatre, Fort Worth. Call 817-877-3040.
With jokes about preschool productions of Cabaret and making 5-year-olds run cancer charity marathons, Bright Ideas runs out of new ideas about halfway through the first act. Genevra, so focused on ensuring her child's success that she counts murder as a viable option to achieve it, comes across as one of those obnoxious Mama Grizzlies, willing to do anything to get what she wants. Nothing funny about that.