Artists Repertory Theatre, 5340 N Interstate, 241-1278, Tues-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 & 7 pm, through May 29, $15-35
The entirety of Blue/Orange, Artists Repertory Theatre's current Second Stage production, takes place in one room of a mental institution, where two doctors debate whether a patient is sane enough to be released. Christopher, the patient (Bobby Bermea), is a young black man diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, temporarily institutionalized for doing something indelicate and unspecified with an orange. A bowl of oranges rests in the middle of an otherwise barren set; Christopher thinks the oranges are blue. He also insists his father is former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, and that he's being persecuted by zombies.
The doctors interpret this information in radically different ways. Young Bruce (Ryan Lee) believes that Christopher is a textbook schizophrenic who should remain hospitalized for further treatment. His supervisor, Robert (Shelly Lipkin), essentially thinks that Christopher should be released because he isn't crazy enough to warrant the use of scarce resources. Further, Robert insists that Christopher's symptoms may not be the result of mental illness at all, but rather a manifestation of a warped personal history: it is likely that Christopher has been frequently harassed by skinheads, or "zombies"; and the late Surrealist French poet Paul Eluard once wrote that "the world is as blue as an orange." Maybe Christopher's a Surrealist?
Complicating matters are self-interest, ego, and the bureaucracy of an overburdened healthcare system, all of which influence the doctors and serve to raise more questions than answers. Is Bruce displaying enlightenment and sensitivity when he argues that sanity is a relative concept, or just responding to the fucked up world he lives in? The outstanding performances in Blue/Orange highlight and deepen these ambiguities, with Bermea's Christopher as a frighteningly moody and heartbreakingly vulnerable focal point--a human being whose fate is controlled by two human beings.