Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
With its production of Joe Penhall's play Blue/Orange, The Promethean Theatre proves that it is a theatre company to be reckoned with. The selection of material, acting, directing and production value equals, if not surpasses, the work of long established and amply funded fellow professional theatres such as The Caldwell and The Florida Stage. Perhaps it is the freshness of this theatre company, now in its second season, that lends such a clarity of vision. Hopefully they have raised the bar enough to encourage other local theatres to concentrate on the quality of their work as aggressively as the advertising and marketing of it.
Blue/Orange follows the events in a modern London psychiatric hospital over a twenty-four period. A young man named Christopher has been admitted by the police for unnamed inappropriate public behavior involving an orange in a supermarket. His assigned counselor, Bruce, is a tense but well intentioned man of the same age, newly employed in his position. Among other things, Christopher claims he is the son of African Dictator Idi Amin, and that the oranges in Bruce's office are blue. Bruce wishes to retain Christopher on the grounds that his observations lead him to believe Christopher to be on the borderline between neurotic and psychotic. But Bruce's seasoned and slightly jaded supervisor Robert wishes to release Christopher based on his own observations. If Bruce seems to be reacting in the best interest of the patient, then Robert is reacting in the best interest of the hospital and a dying national health system.
The script tackles the issues of semantics and perception. The fact that Christopher is of African decent becomes fodder for discussion of what effect racial and cultural differences play in determining appropriate behavior. Robert and Bruce must assign labels and diagnoses in a system based on psychiatric text book criteria that may or may not include this consideration. What may have begun as a professional difference of opinion between the two men escalates into a struggle for control. The manipulation of semantics and policy become weapons. In the end, Robert emerges the victor, despite Bruce's good intentions and Christopher's mental health.
Penhall's writing is bright and crisp. The subject of racial elitism is neatly woven into the story. Director Margaret M. Ledford has found the right cast for this play and armed them with good pacing and clean staging. With never a forced moment, the dialogues all felt like real conversations. The more serious character of Bruce is well played by Christopher Kauffmann; his conflict is clear. Sheaun McKinney has an interesting innocence as Christopher; his character is filled with the slightest of quirks. Colin McPhillamy finds layers of humor in Robert and in this script, with an engaging quality reminiscent of John Cleese.
Blue/Orange was first performed on April 7, 2000 at the Cottesloe Theatre, Royal National Theatre. It moved to the Duchess Theatre in London on April 30, 2001. Before coming to the U.S., it was the winner of Britain's Olivier Award, London's Evening Standard Theatre Award and the London Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play. In 2002 it received its American premiere at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York City.
London-born playwright Joe Penhall, has been called "one of the finest playwrights of his generation" by the Financial Times. Other plays by Penhall include Dumb Show, Love And Understanding, Pale Horse, and The Bullet. He also adapted Ian McEwan's novel Enduring Love for film in 2004, and wrote the screenplay for BBC2's four-part dramatization of Jake Arnott's novel The Long Firm.
This production of Blue/Orange, by The Promethean Theatre, appeared from April 28th - May 14th at The Mailman Hollywood Theatre. The Mailman Hollywood Theatre is located at Nova Southeastern University, 3301 College Ave., on the 2nd floor of the Mailman Hollywood Center in Davie, FL.
The Promethean Theatre is a professional, nonprofit, regional theatre company seeking daring, creative, and original approaches to classical pieces, as well as contemporary and new works, that engage the imagination and inspire passionate discourse among its artists and audience. For more information on the theatre and its season, you may contact them by mail at 4 Northeast 44th St., Miami FL 33137, by phone at 786 317-7580, and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.