ORLANDO — For those of you theater audience members who are not social workers or psychologists, the “biopsychosocial” model is described as one that “attributes disease causation or disease outcome to the intricate, variable interaction of biological factors (genetic, biochemical, etc), psychological factors (mood, personality, behavior, etc), and social factors (cultural, familial, socioeconomic, medical, etc),” according to Wikipedia.
If that’s not exactly the kind of sentence that makes you perk up and read more, you might also be inclined to think this treatment model is a potentially odd choice for a theater piece, particularly at an event like the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival.
Or maybe not — wasn’t “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” a big hit?
The play “Bio Psycho Social,” an original piece written by a former social worker, Viet Nguyen, is neither a dry look at the theories of psychology, or an attempt to make allegorical social commentary a la “Cuckoo’s Nest.” Instead, it’s a story about two students, one openly gay and the other quite private and close-lipped about his life, who work on a student project together — their biopsychosocial.
As they do, they record sessions where one pretends to be the patient, and the other responds as he normally would as a therapist.
At the same time, it’s clear they’re bonding as friends — and that as they get closer and closer, there’s friction that develops as the gay man desires an even stronger emotional relationship with his colleague — who keeps pulling back from him.
Nguyen is quite good as Duc, the gay student, and Mar’Keyth Powell matches him beautifully in a more subdued role as the emotionally repressed Anfernee. Despite the subject matter, there are very comedic moments as Duc reminds us that some patients can be, well, downright silly at times.
There are also some deeply sad scenes, as the students describe coping with child patients who have absolutely horrific lives, knowing they can barely help in more than a minimal way.
But the play, creatively directed by Jeremy Seghers, is also intriguing in the way that the two students’ relationship continues to develop. They are two very different people — or are they?
“Bio Psycho Social” is an engrossing drama, worth catching today at its final performance at 4:45 p.m. at the Green Venue inside the Orlando Repertory Theater.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..