BLUE/ORANGE by Joe Penhall, directed by Chris Abraham, with R. H. Thomson, Kevin Hanchard and Darren Keay. Presented by CanStage (26 Berkeley). Opens tonight (Thursday, September 25) and runs to November 1, Monday-Saturday 8 pm, matinees Wednesday 1:30 pm, Saturday 2 pm. $20-$46, limited Monday pwyc and half-price same-day rush. 416-368-3110. Rating: NNNNN
Actor Darren Keay lives in parkdale, and for the past few weeks he's been looking a bit more closely at the doctors and patients milling outside the Queen West mental health centre. In Blue/Orange, which opens tonight at CanStage's Berkeley Theatre, the actor plays Bruce, a young English psychiatrist caught in a professional and ethical dilemma.
His young patient, Christopher (Kevin Hanchard), officially diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, believes he's the son of exiled Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. Should Bruce obey the more senior psychiatrist (R. H. Thomson) and let him out into society after treatment?
"This is one of those plays where you think you know what it's about but then you realize how dense it really is," explains the actor a week before opening night.
Not only does the play bring up questions about health care, but it also gets us thinking about institutionalized racism.
"Bruce feels a conviction about Chris's diagnosis," says Keay. "He knows the patient needs continuing help. But he's also a new doctor, and this is his first month of training. The other relationship he has is with his mentor, and it's full of mind games, politics and power struggles."
No such power struggles are happening offstage, although relative newcomers Keay and Hanchard play opposite theatre vet Thomson.
"Thomson's an acting icon, and onstage it's hard not to feel awed," says Keay. "I'm learning from him. I'm not so much intimidated as excited."
Just two years in Toronto, the East-Coast-born Keay's catapulted to mainstage roles pretty quickly. After a charming turn as an ineffectual husband in Eric Woolfe's SummerWorks hit, Sideshow Of The Damned, he snagged a lead role in David French's Soldier's Heart at the Tarragon and played lovable loser Duncan in CanStage's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Edible Woman.
Theatre's fine, and so are films and TV - he had a key role in The New Waterford Girl - but what Keay would really enjoy is a recurring role on an animated series.
He gives me his best impression - a dead-on Sean Connery - and then morphs into a hilarious Donald Duck.
"Isn't that one of the reasons why a lot of us get into this?" he laughs. "We're show-offs. I was the one who goofed around in elementary school, and luckily teachers directed me to do plays early on. I mimicked a million voices."
So will he get to show off a British accent in the play?
"All that's on the page," says Keay, who obviously picked up a dialect or two while studying at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.
"Joe Penhall's part of this British tradition of telling us about people by how they use the words. You can tell where these characters are from. I think Bruce is London, with a bit of regionality there. Christopher is East London. What you have in the end is verbal swordplay."