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Stage Raw: Bright Ideas

Stage Raw: Bright Ideas

Photo by Shashin Desai

"All the world's a stage, and our children our players," advises a tutor to parents Genevra (Amie Farrell) and Joshua Bradley (Brian Stanton) in Eric Coble's chipper comedy inspired by the playwright's own preschool panic attack. The Bradleys' offstage son Mac is on the wrong end of 3 -- in months, he'll be 4 -- and his chances for a kind success that would be set in concrete depend on getting him off the waiting list for the area's best preschool, or so warn the over-achiever breeders at their playground. The obstacle is Genevra's recently divorced co-worker Denise (Meghan Maureen McDonough) who just bought her child's slot by donating her family's fortunes to build the school's new Aquatics Center. When the couple invites Denise over for some poisoned pesto -- the better to get her tot sent away to live with his dad -- Coble's script giddily underlines its allusions to Macbeth ("Is this a mortar and pestle I see before me?" frets Genevra). Caryn Desai's chirpy direction prefers laughs to moral agonies, and her comic ensemble, rounded out by Louis Lotorto and Heather Corwin, keeps the tone quick and fun. This isn't aiming to usurp the Bard's place in the canon, but Coble enriches his semi-serious premise with a layer of class resentment and modern masculinity issues that intensify as Stanton's very-funny patriarch struggles to wash the phantom basil from his hands. International City Theatre, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat.-Sun., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m.; thru Sept. 20. (562) 436-4610. (Amy Nicholson)

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NEW REVIEWS (Scheduled for publication September 3, 2009)

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Stage Raw: Bright Ideas

Photo by Michael Lamont

If you're Jewish  -- or grew up in New York or another American urban metropolis -- you've  probably met the kind of cantankerous old codger depicted in playwright Jeff Baron's  sometimes heartwarming but mostly preachy and predictable message play.  Mr. Green (Jack Axelrod) is a grieving 86 year old widower and an observant Jew.  He doesn't get out much nor does he care to. Into his life comes a young gay man named Ross (Antonie Knoppers), assigned to the community service task of assisting Mr. Green after he nearly ran him over with his car.   Unfriendly at first, Green warms to Ross after learning that he's Jewish too  ("Why didn't you say so in the first place?" ) - but soon turns away in  disgust after Ross informs him of his homosexuality.  The rest of this somewhat contrived and dated (think 1970s, though the play premiered in 1996) plot follows  the coming together of these two individuals as Ross pours out his soul and Mr. Green reveals the existence of a long-estranged daughter.  One problem with this polarized setup is Green's unworldly attitudes: He doesn't understand the word gay and thinks American Express is a train. This might be credible coming from an immigrant but hardly from a native-born former shop owner, which Green is.  That Ross doesn't know where his grandparents emigrated from  also seems a stretch).  Under David Rose's direction, Knoppers grows believably impassioned; Axelrod, on opening night, created a convincing bigot but his performance needs more shading and nuance. Colony Studio Theater, 555 N. Third St., Burbank; Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; (added perfs Sat., Sept. 5 & 12, 3 p.m. and Thurs., September 17 & 24, 8 p.m.; thru September 20. (818) 558-7000. (Deborah Klugman)

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