"It's about two parents struggling to pull themselves out of not-so-great conditions and get their 3-year-old into the right preschool," Coble explains from his home in Cleveland. "Their kid is next in line, but a week away from the start of school, they get stuck in bureaucracy and take matters into their own hands."
Tame enough. But the play takes on different shadings depending on how audiences identify with the material. "From the adults' point of view -- these are parents with honorable intentions, after all -- the absurdity stands out," he says. "From the kid's point of view, though, it's horrendous and tragic."
If desperation for enrollment sounds far-fetched, consider the policies of one East Coast institution. "There's actually one preschool in New York whose answering machine says, 'If your child has not been born yet, please call back after that,'" Coble says.
The playwright admits that he's not been immune from the phenomenon; in fact, the inspiration struck him while standing in line to register one of his own kids for preschool. "I was watching myself and the other parents, and the thought came to me, How far would they go? And then, What was that other play about ambition? Macbeth? That's when I began to make the connections." For tickets, call 816-531-7529. -- Steve Walker
Heart of the Ocean
Open Water had a solid premise: savage sea creatures stalking stranded swimmers. Unfortunately, the film's creators erred with unlikable characters and minimal menace. Other than shark sightings and a luminous jellyfish, the ocean's ominous oddities remain off-camera. What of the octopus, a malevolent mollusk with burgeoning bad-guy cred in the wake of Spider-Man 2? Kansas City band Octopus Frontier gives the supersized squid its due. An offshoot of Burning Mirror, the members of which seemed to use eight arms to compose their fiendishly labyrinthine music, Octopus Frontier crackles with experimental energy as its melodies lure listeners with strong suction. The group surfaces at Davey's Uptown (3402 Main) on Friday night; for more information, call 816-753-1909. -- Andrew Miller
Flirtin' for Certain
Bobby Smith likes the ladies -- particularly petite brunettes like our friend Jennifer. At a recent performance, Smith strutted among the crowd, serenading with his saxophone (and repeatedly dropping to his knees at Jennifer's feet) between his bluesy vocals (which he, of course, dedicated to Jennifer). Alternately engaging the crowd with covers such as "I Hear You Knockin'," persuading audience members to dance where there's no dance floor and inviting resident talent to take to the mike, the Bobby Smith Blues Band (left) is good, loud fun. The band performs from 8 to midnight Thursday at the Daily Limit (523 East 111th Street). Call 816-765-1621 for more information. -- Annie Fischer
Party of One
To supplement the proliferation of plays about adults behaving badly (see Bright Ideas, above), the American Heartland Theatre (2450 Grand) opens its season this weekend with Fully Committed. In Becky Mode's one-man play, Jason Chanos plays a trendy New York restaurant's reservations taker -- and 38 other characters. The desperate would-be diners include tourists, divas, rock stars and wannabes. The play, directed by Mark Robbins, serves as a metaphor for how people scheme to get what they want. Not pretty, but damned funny. It opens at 8 p.m. Friday and runs through October 17. Call 816-842-9999 for tickets. -- Fischer