Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Blue/Orange"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark


by Joe Penhall
Directed by David J. Miller

Set Design by David J. Miller
Costume Design by Tracey Campbell
Lighting Design by Jeff Adelberg
Sound design by TJ Sound Machine
Assistant Stage Manager Lee Bloom
Stage Manager Deirdre Benson

Christopher.....Dorian Christian Baucum
Dr. Bruce Flaherty...........Eric Hamel
Dr. Robert Smith.......Steven Barkhimer

At the center of Joe Penhall's "Blue/Orange" is Dorian Baucum bouncing and pacing restlessly about as a mental patient eager to "go home" after 28-days of evaluation --- even though he'd rather that home were Africa and not Shepherd's Bush (He's in an English hospital). He has been diagnosed with "Borderline Schizophrenia". However Eric Hamel, playing the young psychiatric intern who has been treating him thinks he's been mis-diagnosed and would benefit from a longer stay --- while Steven Barkhimer as his immediate superior looks at the same bouncing "Afro-Carribean" and sees him fit for discharge.
Which of the two is right?

Is the younger man too personally involved in his first big case? Is his elder eager to free up a bed in a crowded institution? Their argument, with one man often stuttering in bewildered incomprehension and the other glibly asserting his position of power, escalates through the play, with each questioning the other's motives and expertise and bringing up past personal interactions as illustration --- while they all but ignore the patient totally. Whose right depends eventually on who can exert the most pressure on the other, while a man's future hangs on their argument.

The extremes of their counter-logic can become extremely funny as the diagnosis see-saws, just as the patient (who sells them in a shop) insists that oranges, outside and inside, are really Blue.

The psychological dilemma eventually spins itself into a social one: why are so many non-White young men ending up in hospital diagnosed with paranoid delusions that get them in serious trouble with the police? Could it really be true that a poor young Black man in a dominant White society gets "looked at funny" so often by so many people he must go mad in compensation for his loneliness? This thesis is merely touched upon, but it's hard for the doctors either to accept or dismiss --- and what might a cure be for "Afro-Caribbean Syndrome"?

But, with needed empty beds at a premium, who has time to worry about that?


"Blue/Orange" (11 February - 5 March)
Boston Center for The Arts, 539 Tremont Street, BOSTON MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide