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BWW Review: BLUE/ORANGE at Tower Grove Abbey

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Stray Dog Theatre Presents a Compelling Season Premiere

BWW Review: BLUE/ORANGE at Tower Grove Abbey

Premiering in 2000, the Olivier Award-winning Blue/Orange is just a prescient today as it was when it debuted. Written by Joe Penhall (who adapted The Road for the big screen and created Netflix's Mindhunter), this intensely powerful drama challenges societal conventions about race and how we perceive mental illness.

Blue/Orange serves as the perfect opener for Stray Dog Theatres' new season. Coming out swinging, the company has emerged from the pandemic with a thought-provoking and socially relevant production whose presentation could not be better timed.

Set in a London National Health Service (NHS) mental hospital, Blue/Orange centers on Christopher, an energetic patient who claims to be the son of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Anxious to finish the last 24 hours of his treatment and get on with his life, Christopher is a kinetic burst of energy filled with a lifetime of pain, hardship, and uncertainty.

Holding back Chris' release is Dr. Bruce Flaherty, a young physician whose diagnosis of schizophrenia could keep him in mental care for the foreseeable future. Seeking a second opinion before releasing his patient prematurely, Flaherty seeks the counsel of his mentor, Dr. Robert Smith and invites him to sit in on his last session with Christopher.

Arrogant and deeply embedded in the revolving door of capitalist medical care, Smith disputes his colleague's diagnosis, preferring to cite borderline personality disorder as his assessment. In doing this, Smith paves the way for Christopher to be released as scheduled, without any need for prolonged care.

Stuck between two psychiatric evaluators, Christopher faces his own worries as he prepares to face a world filled with racism and stigmas about mental illness. Deeply anxious and worried that his stay will be extended, he is a ball of nerves. With no real family to return to and no prospects for housing or employment, his future is on shaky ground.

Despite his uncertainty, Christopher's outlook is hopeful and innocent. Fed up with the hatred and scorn he has experienced in England; he longs to return to Africa and make a new home.

Tragically, his fate is intertwined with the two doctors jousting over the state of his mental health. Upset that Christopher will be must another person rapidly processed in and out of a healthcare system that admits and discharges patients as quickly as possible, Dr. Flaherty argues passionately for more time, allowing for a clearer evaluation of his condition.

From here, the drama shifts from sardonic to sadistic, as Christopher's future becomes a commodity. As the hour of his departure rapidly approaches, all professional courtesy and mutual respect dissipate as Flaherty stands his ground, vehemently arguing that his patient needs further evaluation before being released.

Always looking for a subject that helps him finish his next book, Dr. Smith manipulates the situation and makes Christopher's fate his alone. This results in a raging confrontation where everyone's true colors and motivations are revealed, leaving the two doctors to a fiercely clash over ideologies, methodologies, and moral principles.

Staged on a minimalist set, Blue/Orange features a trio of incredible performances. William Humphrey is jittering and jarring as Christopher, giving the character the perfect blend of pride, power, and vulnerability. As Dr. Flaherty, Jason Meyers serves as a moral compass, an altruistic medical professional battling a system that has become corrupted by money and bureaucracy.

Every great drama needs a villain, and Ben Ritchie's performance is exceptional. His Dr. Smith is a grimy, foul mouth and conniving snake in the grass that the audience loves to hate.

Stray Dog's Blue/Orange is a relevant exploration of the connection between class, race, and mental health. This finely directed and well-acted production is layered with raw emotions that stay with audiences long after the curtain has come down.

How To Get Tickets

Blue/Orange plays at Tower Grove Abbey through October 23rd. For tickets and more information visit https://www.straydogtheatre.org


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