by Eric Coble
Tarrant Actors Regional Theatre
Director/Sound Design – Alex Krus
Assistant Director – Chris Rothbauer
Stage Manager – Kristy Scroggins
Set Design – Sydnee Mowery
Lighting Design – Bryan S. Douglas
Costume Design – Hope Cox
Master Carpenter – VanAnthony Williams
Properties – Lyndi Wade
Genevra Bradley – Laura Saladino
Joshua Bradley – Eric Dobbins
Woman 1 – Stefany Cambra
Woman 2 – Felicia Bertch
Man 1 – Andrew Manning
Reviewed Performance: 1/13/2018
Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
How far would someone be willing to go for their children? That is a question that has been asked by parents throughout history and will continue to be asked for many years to come. The next question is what happens if we go to far? This is what Bright Ideas explores through the loving, overly supportive parents Genevra and Joshua Bradley.
Their son is next on the waiting list for Bright Ideas Early Childhood Development Academy, the best pre-school around. If you’re child makes it there, s/he is set for life. Having gone through difficult times themselves as they grew up, Joshua and Genevra want to provide the absolute best for their son. This results in a fatal dinner party which changes their son’s opportunities for the better. I enjoyed the subtle dark comedy in this performance, though I would recommend not eating any pesto before you see this show.
The use of a colored block background set the feel perfectly for the performance, making me think of a playground. This set design by Sydnee Mowery was functional and helped fully integrate the background using removable blocks and a playful feel. I enjoyed the simplicity, as well as the use of the blocks as set pieces. It made me think of what I would see in a child’s play room, which worked perfectly in the show.
The lighting as designed by Bryan S. Douglas worked very well in the context of the show. The flashing lights on the background as well as the different colors worked very well in setting the different locations on the stage. Though the lighting worked well, these were at times muddled and did not highlight the actor quickly enough to catch my attention and guide me through transitions.
Alex Krus designed and directed the show. The sound was effective in setting the mood. I appreciated the subtle sounds that added to the performance, instead of distracting from it. The sound of kids playing in a playground was very faint, but helped me feel immersed in the setting. Other sounds, such as the ringing of a cell phone, further added to the reality of the show.
Though the cast was small, Hope Cox had her work cut out for herself with the costumes. Several characters had to fill numerous minor roles. Cox effectively changed clothes for these actors so that they could be distinguished from each other. She dressed the lead characters simply and consistently, with the character of Genevra getting a simple but professional wardrobe, showcasing the fact that she had to work to support her son’s activities and she wanted to fit in with the other parents at Bright Idea. The character of Joshua alternated from the optimistic and professional dress of slacks and shirt for a dad working to support his son’s future to a band t-shirt and pajama pants as the character got depressed and stopped caring about his appearance.
Lyndi Wade made effective choices in the properties. The usage of food items, camera phones and the gun added a comedic effect to the performance. I was impressed to see real food for the dinner and an actual birthday cake for the party. There were presents and wrapping paper too. These realia helped to keep the comedy dark and stay with the theme of the show; imaginary or unrealistic props would have prevented me from believing the reality of the play.
Laura Saladino played the part of Genevra Bradley, the mother who wants to be accepted by the other parents in the community and whose sole focus is the success of her son. Saladino was phenomenal in her role, showing a progression from the happy mother that is trying her best to the mother who will do anything it takes, no matter the cost. She began humble optimism as she toured various preschools in the area and smiled as she sought for the good in them. Then Saladino successfully changed to cold and calculated behavior, dropping her smile and her tone, looking down on those who got in her way, and coolly speaking to those who weren’t worth her time. Her gradual progression made the show cohesive and helped to progress the plot.
Joshua Bradley, the husband and loving father who is trying to be supportive, yet curtail his wife’s craziness, was played by Eric Dobbins. He has a strong stage presence that worked very well in this character. Dobbins went from the happy father who spirals downhill into the depressed man who worries about his wife’s sanity, as well as his own. Dobbins began with a ritualistic chant for his character, complete with lightly stepping in place as he contemplated his son’s future and what he could do to improve it. Then Dobbins began slouching and glaring as his wife became cruel and vindictive. The way Dobbins lounged in chairs as a sloppy junk or erratically walked about his son’s party sold me on his character’s internal dilemmas.
Stefany Cambra played the part of Woman #1 which shifted from the bored sales woman to the teacher afraid for her life. She did very well portraying the different characters. Cambra did exceptionally well as Genevra’s coworker, portraying a disinterest in the well being of those around her as she stared at her phone during conversations and sighed when Genevra bothered her with questions. This changed entirely for the part of the administrator of Bright Ideas, who smiled hesitantly in the face of a threat and kept her tone bright as she navigated the treacherous waters of an angry parent. Cambra effectively guided me through her roles by modulating her mannerisms.
Felicia Bertch, also known as Woman #2, shifted with ease through each of the different characters that she portrayed. From expectant mother to harassed teacher she was able to convey different mannerisms and personalities through the way that she stood and interacted with the Bradley’s. The change of costume and posture also helped further solidify the differences between her characters. It’s impossible to pick one role that Bertch did exceptionally well on since she made them all so distinctively real. I did thoroughly enjoy seeing her as the simpering, expectant mother who couldn’t tear her eyes away from her kids at the playground and had a vacant, confused look when other parents didn’t want to see 200+ hours of videos of her children. This contrasts strongly with her role as the business executive assistant, with a drawn in expression, slight glare, and rigid posture. I thoroughly enjoyed her portrayals.
Andrew Manning played the part of Man #1, which included playing a father, a boss, and a workout coach, among some others. Manning did very well with portraying the different characters and making them different. Most of his stage time was spent in the role of a father. For this Manning presented a clean-cut, well spoken, and highly respectable dad who could look other’s in the eye and smile over the accomplishments of his children. This contrasts with his role as a college student in a beaver costume, singing and dancing at kids’ birthday parties. Though I couldn’t see Manning’s face in the beaver costume, his slouched posture clearly communicated what his character thought of the job. Manning expertly moved from one character to another throughout the play, successfully making each on different.
Bright Ideas as presented by TART is a thought provoking insight into what goes on in some parent’s heads when they are looking out for their children. It really did make me think about how far is too far. And I will also be sure never to eat pesto when I visit someone’s home. I enjoyed the performance and the skill with which it was presented.
Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center
1300 Gendy Street
Fort Worth, TX 76107
Performances run through January 28th.
Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm, with matinee performances Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 pm.
TICKET PRICES for Bright Ideas
Adult - $15
Senior/student - $12
Child - $10
Adult - $18
Senior/Student - $15
Child - $12
For information and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.thetart.org or call the TART box office at (682) 231-0082.