For those who’d forgotten, or for novice parents who needed fair warning, South Coast Repertory had some basic instruction to offer in the ways of children.

Delia Ephron’s wickedly observant book, “How to Eat Like a Child (And Other Lessons in Not Being a Grown-up),” adapted for the stage by director Diane Doyle, was creditably presented by SCR’s Young Conservatory Players, ages 12 to 15, in Costa Mesa over the weekend.

The cast delivered many of the lessons with the apparent ease of firsthand knowledge.

“How to Eat Peas: Mash and flatten into thin sheet on plate. . . . “


“How to Watch Television: Watch with eyes wide, mouth slack. Your mother is calling you. Do not hear her, do not hear her, do not hear her.”

“How to Express an Opinion: Yucky. Gross, Dis- gusting . Sick. Icky. Oh, barf.”

Birthday parties, car travel, the merciless teasing of sisters, pet care and school behavior were covered, and the fine art of child-perfected procrastination was well demonstrated. “Can’t I just stay up a little while longer? Just till I finish this chapter? This page? One more sentence?”

And what familiar heights of parental exasperation and child-frustration have been reached with this escalation of wheedle to whine, whine to anger, anger to tears? “Please, Mom. Oh, please. Just this once. I promise I won’t ask again. Please . . . . “


At certain telling points in the proceedings, young audience members were seen stealing smiling glances at parents--who were doing the same back.

The fledgling actors, carefully directed by Doyle, offered straightforward, unself-conscious performances for the most part, though Doyle’s inclusion of the by-now obligatory devices of Valley Girl and Nerd distracted from the simplicity of the ensemble format.

Mary Zerbst’s pleasing set and Nancy Hamann’s corresponding costumes--bright, multicolored paint spatters and streaks against a white background--complemented the natural mix of childhood innocence and cynicism.

In all fairness, a warning to kids in the audience should have been issued beforehand: “How to Eat Like a Child” spills the beans. Think of that the next time you mix catsup with your mashed potatoes.