Vol. 12, No. 21 – July 17 – July 30, 2019 – A View from House Seats

Shirley Lorraine
Beacon Theater’s inaugural offering solid

There’s a new theater group in town. The recently organized Beacon Theater Company made its debut at the NAMBA Performing Arts space in downtown Ventura last weekend.

With familiar theater notables Tom Eubanks, Steve Grumette, Howard Leader and Anna Kotula at the helm, the company opened with a top-notch performance of Blue/Orange by British playwright Joe Penhall.

Beacon’s stated goal is to “explore the human condition with plays that 1) evoke emotions, 2) encourage you to think, or 3) simply make you laugh. While it is not our intention to offend, neither do we intend to become captive to political correctness.”

As a debut piece, Blue/Orange, awarded the coveted Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play in 2001, certainly fulfills the stated intent.

The scene is a psychiatrist’s office in a British institutional setting. A young African-Caribbean patient, Christopher (Emmanuel Odaibo) has served his required 28 days and is scheduled for release the next day. His doctor, Bruce Flaherty (Brian Robert Harris) believes that Christopher’s diagnosis of borderline personality disorder is just a piece of the puzzle and recommends he stay for additional treatment.

Dr. Robert Smith (Brian Kolb), Bruce’s supervisor, joins the meeting and quickly disagrees with retaining Christopher. As the two psychiatrists’ arguments escalate Christopher rapidly becomes a bystander. His delusions appear and recede with regularity.

The dialogue tackles schizophrenia, racism, superior authority, the mental health system in general, and differing perceptions of treatment. Robert becomes so intent on sharing his new ideas based on R.D. Laing’s ground-breaking theories of socially and environmentally induced causes for psychosis that he fails to listen to either the patient or his colleague.

All three exhibit varying degrees of frustration, anger, confusion and futility as they all try to make themselves heard to little avail. The result is an intense emotional journey into the minds of three men who all want a good outcome, but who are unable to come to agreement on what that outcome may look like or how to get there.

The true fascination is in watching the high-powered, precise and energetic performances of Harris, Odaibo and Kolb. They are all superb. Harris morphs from the caring, gentle, friendly counselor he exhibits at the start, to a man racked with doubts, excessive anger and frustration as he attempts to stand by his convictions.

Odaibo carries the role of Christopher with skill. One can almost feel the gears in his brain turn faster, reverse and come to a grinding halt before restarting. In the role, he speaks with a heavy and rapid Jamaican accent that takes a bit of getting used to. Thankfully, the printed program features a useful glossary of terms to help the audience along.

Kolb portrays an arrogant, controlled manic personality, doting on his role as “the authority” with his desire to be the one who is “right” driving him forward. All three actors are fascinating to watch as they slowly dissolve. One wonders who the patient really is.

The play only runs through July 28. Try and catch it and watch the Beacon Theater Company take off. It is bound to be a wild ride.

For tickets, visit www.thebeacontheatercompany.com, call (805) 233-6965, or stop in at the Namba venue at 47 S. Oak St, downtown Ventura.

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