Fenix Theatre Collaborative makes its theatrical debut with BLUE/ORANGE at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center. The intense dramatic comedy may have been written in 2000, but this compelling production shows just how relevant the issues it tackles still are today. BLUE/ORANGE is playing through Saturday, April 16th.
This play centers on three characters: two psychiatrists, Bruce (Patrick Clark) who is in his first year, and Robert (Charles Peters) the senior doctor who is helping Bruce with a particularly interesting patient named Christopher (Xavier Carnell Daniels).
Christopher is a young Black patient, who is sometimes full of manic energy, sometimes charming, and potentially delusional. After all, he says that oranges are really blue and that his father is an exiled African dictator. The show and the characters explore the different ways to assess and provide care for Christopher – from the medical (text)book way, through a cultural lens, or as a battleground for medical approaches. The production proves that sometimes the ones with the worst demons are the ones that are supposed to help you purge your own.
On the final day of Christopher’s stay, Clark’s first-year doctor wants to keep Christopher in-patient even longer and up the severity of his treatment even though Christopher is excited and ready to go home. Peters’ Robert argues that an inherent cultural bias and internalized racism often lead to misdiagnosis and advocates to send Christopher home; plus they don’t have enough beds to admit him. Caught in the middle, Daniels Christopher finds his own mental health at the mercy of these two as they battle.
The show has sharp dialogue that draws laughs, and under the confident direction of Kian Kline-Chilton, the tensions build and discomfort grows. t Kline-Chilton also helped design the set with Justin Allen Slagle, and the black and white flooring underscores the very dangerous game being played by the characters.
Daniels as Christopher is excellent as a young man full of nervous and sometimes explosive energy, swinging wildly from lucidity to proclaiming impossible things. Yet, there is an underlying vulnerability and loneliness that tragically makes him seem more human than either of his doctors who seem to have dismissed his well-being in favor of winning their own personal ideological struggle.
Clark as Bruce shows the frustration simmering as his mild-mannered if nervous young doctor struggles with trying to impress someone who outranks him. As the show goes on more of his temperament begins to reveal itself as he feels he is losing ground with the patient and his professional prospects.
Peters as the senior Robert is charming ambiguity in person form. Is he an astute doctor who is applying what he has learned on the job or is he a scheming careerist pushing a new doctor to the brink on purpose? His quicksilver changes from amiable to aggressive are the more chilling in the not knowing.
With themes of racism, mental health, isolation, and power, sadly, the play is as relevant as ever. It depicts a new form of manifest destiny as these two doctors each try to claim, manipulate, and then eventually dismiss the young Black man they claim to want to help as they struggle with each other for supremacy regardless of the damage they may cause others.
How to get Tickets
BLUE/ORANGE from Fenix Theatre Collaborative is playing at the Tenth Avenue Arts Center through April 16th. For show details, times, and ticket information go to www.fenixsd.org
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