by Shirley Lorraine
Elite Offers Delicious Food for Thought
Theories of connectedness are explored in Elite’s current stage offering of “Six Degrees of Separation”, a complex play by John Guare. Nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony for Best Play, Six Degrees tackles class discrimination, relationships, honesty, desires, self-awareness, facades and much more.
The play is unusual in several ways. The actors frequently address the audience, involving them in the action not just as observers, but ultimately as partners in the deceptions being portrayed.
Skillfully directed by Brian Robert Harris, the tightly choreographed action centers around Ouisa and Flan Kittredge (Aileen-Marie Scott and Bill Walthall), a couple flirting with high society as art dealers while barely maintaining their own tenuous social position. Entertaining a potential investor (John Medeiros), their evening is abruptly disturbed by the appearance of Paul (Remy Muloway), a young man who professes to have been mugged and to know their children from college. A smooth conversationalist, Paul impresses them all with his detailed story of being Sidney Poitier’s son which rapidly envelopes the Kittredges, causing them to offer their home as temporary respite.
Paul takes advantage of the situation and is asked to leave. Soon he meets a young couple (Stephanie Blaze Bates and Christopher Robin Rubin) just relocated to New York from Utah and repeats a version of his story to gain entrance to their lives ultimately causing destruction. The Kittredges learn that another couple in their circle has also been led astray by Paul, now recognized as a manipulative con man.
Presented with no intermission, the circles become intense as all the affected people realize how easily their trust was compromised and how connected they became because of this man. Despite Flan’s protests, Ouisa is unable to resist attempting to assist Paul, whom she sees as a fellow victim of a tenuous grasp on reality.
The complexity of the play was, at times, a challenge for me to follow. However, I found each character to be so interesting in themselves, how they merged and withdrew to the situation, and the ways in which they were connected that I was nonetheless fully engaged throughout. Several actors, including Amber Shea Hodge and Will Palo take on several personas to fill out the action. All were excellent in their portrayals.
This mind-stretching production deserves full houses. Employing a minimal setting and involving the audience fully allows the actors to tell the story, which reminds us that we are all susceptible to being conned, as we continually con ourselves into certain ways of thinking or perceiving others. This is a deep work presented with a twinkle in the eye and a nod to our need for acceptance and truth, despite our surface misgivings.
The play continues through July 2 with Friday and Saturday performances at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. with one special Thursday evening performance on June 29. www.theelite.org,