"If sanity and insanity exist, how shall we know them?" This is the first sentence of the article On Being Sane in Insane Places written by famous American psychologist David Rosenhan. He is famous for his Rosenhan Experiment which led him to hospitalize several pseudopatients in 12 different hospitals in the United States. The pseudopatients were researchers who faked their mental conditions to seem insane. After being admitted into the hospitals, they acted like normal people, but none of the hospitals?staff noticed the pseudopatients were sane. Those pseudopatients were already diagnosed with psychiatric disorders and that was the only thing the staff cared about. This brought to light how difficult it is to tell the difference between sane and insane people and how easily normal people were diagnosed with mental disorders.
The play, R U Crazy? was motivated by this experiment and points out those issues. Sometimes when people are sick and tired of their work or whatever they feel burdened by, they get stressed and say, "This is driving me crazy!" However, no one really knows if that person is really going nuts or not. They are somewhere in the middle between sanity and insanity. Can the two be told apart? R U Crazy? gives the answer to this question and some laughs to boot.
Orakgarak Mental Hospital, Not a Theater for Comedy
Above the theater's entrance there is a phrase that calls the theater by another name: Orakgarak Mental Hospital. No sooner do spectators enter the theater then high voices saying, "You are insane, too!" welcome them. After coming through the door, spectators can meet the actors right in front of them. The actors who play a doctor, a nurse and psychiatric patients chat with the audience. Actors playing patients talk up the audience, followed closely by a nurse repeatedly apologizing to the audiences and trying to soothe the patients. For about 10 minutes of this charade, the play tries to form closer relationships with the audience than in any other plays in small theaters. "I usually am so shy I cannot laugh a lot even when a scene is really funny. However, the actors in R U Crazy? made me relaxed even before the play started, so I could enjoy it more," said Kim Hye-kyung, a Junior in the Department of English Language and Literature at Hanyang University. Especially in small theaters, it is important to form connections between the audience and actors because the theater is so little every small thing that happens there could affect that day's performance. To insure that the day? performance stays at its pinnacle, R U Crazy? prevents the audience from not enjoying it from the very beginning.
This special setting not only narrows the space between the audience and the actors, but also makes their boundary more vague. Making the boundary that lies between the theater and hospital, the stage and seats, and the audience and patients who appear in the play nebulous, R U Crazy? stresses its message that there is no definite standard when it comes to insanity.
Standing on the Line Between Sanity and Insanity
The story starts with two psychiatrists entering Orakgarak Mental Hospital as psychiatric patients. Questioning the criteria diognosing mental illness, they went undercover to investigate. In Orakgarak Mental Hospital, they meet four different mental patients, a doctor and a nurse. At first, the play seems to highlight each case of the four patients. Each of them was just fine in the past, but people and the environment around them made them insane. For example, one of the patients whose name is Oh Shi-ryun thinks she is a heroine in every famous play. Before being admitted into the hospital, she wanted to be a star. She auditioned several times, but the only thing the auditions left her with was a sense of frustration. She was even sexually assaulted during the auditions driving her to insanity. Every patient's story is sad, making the audience feel pity for them and understand what it is to live in a heartless world.
As the story continues, however, it turns out that the person who is in the spotlight is Jin Boo-han, the doctor. Dr. Jin is a psychiatric doctor at Orakgarak Mental Hospital with fully dedicated to his job. He strongly sympathizes with his patients and shares the hurt of their past. With this character, Dr. Jin's behavior is somehow exaggerated and unpredictable. Son Ji-yeon, a Junior majoring in Law at Kangnam University, explained her feelings towards Dr. Jin, "I think Dr. Jin is the most pitiful person among the characters. He is said to be a doctor, but he shares all kinds of hurt manifest in his patients." Son said Dr. Jin represents every normal person in society. She added, "Each of the patients has their own behavior patterns, but Dr. Jin does not. Maybe he has some mental diseases, too." As she commented, Dr. Jin shows emotional instability several times even though he is a sane person. It implies that all the people who think they are sane may possibly have mental diseases. In other words, it also ironically means that people who think they are insane and wrong are not wrong anymore.
To deliver this message clearly, R U Crazy? shows not only Dr. Jin's case, but also every character's past and present. The story continues to imply that it is difficult and unnecessary to divide people into two groups: the sane and insane. All people are straddling the line between sanity and insanity.
Misery in a Comic Play
During the play, laughter filled the whole theater. Actors play their roles with a slapstick and laid-back mood makes the audience laugh louder and more often. This is the common feature of the comedy or comic play. The message in R U Crazy?, however, is not comic at all. It is rather serious and heavy. While it deals with issues that people worried about in a humorous manner, it suggests an indirect soultion - laughter.
Sadness never lasts long. One minute an actor talks about his miserable experiences, the next he is dancing and the audiences are laughing. The play does not give the audience a moment to be serious. Lim Hyun-joo, a 38-year-old real estate agent from Incheon said, "When I really get stressed from my work and housekeeping, it feels like I am going crazy. I was stressed these days, but this play released my stress." Asked about the topic of the play, she answered, "Problems are always around us so we do not have to be serious. I think R U Crazy? delivers its message clearly by making me laugh."
R U Crazy? deals with life and its characters represent us, we who are tired of our lives. Sometimes life is miserable, leading people to wonder whether they are insane. However R U Crazy? laughs at this worry. It shows every character's hurts and feelings in detail with humor, which makes people laugh at the characters. It is ironic that the audience can laugh at the characters' lives that represent themselves. As the audience can laugh at the characters in the play, it means that they can laugh at their own misery. Using the format of comedy, R U Crazy? effectively shows the misery of our lives and how unnecessary it is to be sad because of it. "I have always been questioning whether I am a normal person or not, but R U Crazy? gave me a clue to the answer - laughter. There is no clear standard between normal people and insane people. Only laughter can make my life healthy," said Choh Eun-jeen, a Sophomore in the Department of Mass Communication at Hanyang University.
The Master Key: Laughter
A healthy life cannot be sustained with only a healthy body. A fresh and sound mind is essential. These days, many people are suffering from their routine lives. However, even if someone is mentally deranged, he or she is not totally mad and it is not a shame. As all human suffer from instability, it is a part of nature and not to be ashamed of. As there is no clear standard of insanity, there is no right or wrong in being insane. They are all right. They all need to laugh.
There is a moment that suddenly everything becomes a burden, making one doubt about his or her mental condition. At that moment, people can find some answers in R U Crazy? They do not have to be serious. They just need to be ready to laugh louder at the theater. Caught between sanity and insanity, all they can do is laugh and that is the only thing they can find. They will laugh out loud then the worries will be gone with their laughter.