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Rug Rat Race 

It was a postmodern world for a postmodern comedy. The traverse playing area stretched between two classical entrances -- logically enough, since the postmodern often makes reference to the premodern, specifically the classical. However, the classical reference is often loose enough to allow for one-upmanship and one-downmanship. You can have your cake and eat it too.

In this case, we saw a Greek temple pediment, but it was lopsided. Think Italian Piazza -- which was designed to last about two weeks and didn't quite last even that long.

Anyway, the postmodernists who played out the drama on this particular traverse stage (in the Lower Depths Theater at Loyola) were, curiously, not that different from the straight-shooters of the past. It's like the '50s keep sneaking back. Or maybe the '50s never really went away.

In any case, we meet Genevra and Joshua, an ambitious but insecure couple. Status and career spur them on like merciless jockeys. Their children must attend the very best, most impressive school from day one -- from preschool, in fact. Since all yuppies want the same thing for their children, the competition is fierce. In fact, it's bloodthirsty.

This is the battlefield, as it were, for the all-out war for prestige in Bright Ideas by Eric Coble, recently presented at Loyola. Genevra (Caitlin Clifford) and Joshua Bradley (Colby Lemaster) are checking out preschools for their 3-year-old son Mac. They start in the playground of what seems to be a Gulag training facility, presided over by a stern, gray-uniformed matron (Jessica Lozano) to whom one would confess anything whatsoever in order to deprive her the pleasure of extracting the information.

At any rate, Genevra and Joshua have gotten young Mac on the waiting list at Bright Ideas -- the nonpareil of preschools. In fact, "98 percent of Bright Ideas alumni attend Harvard." Not immediately upon graduation, we assume.

Well, the scratch-and-claw ascent up the career ladder is set in relief by comparison with a second pair of ambitious parents, Ross (Brandon Sutton) and Denise (Rebecca Hallas). To set a modish contemporary mood, we get a smattering of generic urban concerns, like The Breast Cancer Marathon. One couple marvels at the other's sangfroid, saying -- with a false naivety that smacks more of updated Neil Simon than real life -- "it makes you wonder what their prescription is, doesn't it?"

Finally, accompanied by many a tongue-in-cheek nod to the Thane of Cawdor, Genevra and Joshua decide to resort to murder in order to clear the path to Harvard for their little darling. This intrusion of Shakespearean evil in a most prosaic of settings is part of the comic device, and perhaps it explains the postmodern look of the set.

In any case, Joshua starts jogging around the kitchen cabinet while chanting an affirmation: "I am burning lava!" Genevra goes on the Internet looking for poisons. Then we get the poisoning itself, accompanied by various confusions and hysterics.

Under Benjamin Clement's direction, the cast kicked up a good bit of spirited fun. Some moments seemed ungrounded and illogical, but the problems probably arise from the script as much as anything else. If the superfluities (some unexpected flirtations, for instance) were confusing, they also left little damage in their wake. Silliness rather than satire is at the heart of this play, despite its pretense of social criticism.

The ridicule of status and lampoon of great literature that Bright Ideas offers are pretty weak stuff. Or so it seems from here, in the northernmost city of the Caribbean -- out of the loop, alas, out of all loops. Maybe, you have to live in a 76th story condo on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and feel a homicidal impulse toward your child's rival in order to really get this play.

In addition to the major roles already cited, Cynthia Davila, Jessica Lozano, Foxxy Payne and Erica Stevens played multiple roles, as did one of the central characters, Brandon Sutton, who even appeared as a giant beaver.

Joseph Harris designed the set and lighting. Kellie Grengs designed the costumes.

On a final note, the true word of warning in Bright Ideas may not be directed at the parents of prospective preschool students, who risk mayhem from their fellow PTA members. Reality sets in later in the play. After Mac is a student at Bright Ideas, Genevra begins to assert herself in the posh academy. In fact, to use the vernacular, she starts kicking ass with the faculty. Poisoning is one thing. Poisoning we can laugh at. But, pushy -- that cuts too close for comfort.

click to enlarge Genevra (Caitlin Clifford) and Joshua (Colby Lemaster) plot - to get their son in a prestigious preschool in Bright - Ideas.
  • Genevra (Caitlin Clifford) and Joshua (Colby Lemaster) plot to get their son in a prestigious preschool in Bright Ideas.
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