Monday, March 26, 2012

"Six Degrees of Separation"

Six Degrees of Separation

Playwright:  John Guare

Venue:  Vintage Theater, Denver CO

Date of Performance:  Saturday, March 24, 2012

Six Degrees of Separation” is Vintage Theater’s final production at their 17th Street location.  The company is moving to a new location in Aurora in the near future.  Follow them there (new space is at 1486 Dayton Street, Aurora).  Vintage is one of the premier theater companies in the Denver area, and you won’t be disappointed at any location where you can catch them.
Since this is the last Vintage production in their current home, it is also Vintage’s final effort to deal with the substantial limitations of such a small venue.  I am always amazed at how well the cast and crew use the tiny stage to great effect.  “Six Degrees of Separation” is no exception.  More limitations require more creativity, and Vintage is always delightfully creative within their own limited space.

The plot is based on a true story about a con man in the early 1980s who assumed the identity of Sidney Poitier’s son.  He used the ruse to defraud some rich Manhattan residents, including Melanie Griffith, Calvin Klein, and Gary Sinise (none of whom appears in Guare’s script).  Needless to say, the guy was very good at what he did.

If you’re not familiar with the concept of “six degrees,” it’s pretty simple.  We’re all connected, and that connection can be established with “friend of a friend” links to six other people.  Does it actually work?  Not always.  Does that really matter for this script?  Not really.  What does matter is the concept that we are ALL connected, no matter how close or how remote the connection. 

Strong performances from Lisa DeCaro, Josh Hartwell, and Theo Wilson anchor the production.  Wilson’s con man is smooth, shameless, and clever in all the right ways.  Hartwell and DeCaro are “victims” of the con, and are also shameless in their own right.  Hartwell’s character is an art “dealer,” whose wealth is dependent on his ability to con his buyers. That he is a then victim of a con is both ironic and cathartic.

The set is functional, and given the space limitations, that isn’t easy.  The set included a veiled second level bedroom.  It worked perfectly for the brief but critical bedroom scene.
I quibbled, though, with some of the director’s choices.  The opening scene, for example is so frenetically paced that it loses some of its impact.  Instead of quickly engaging the audience in the story, I was left wondering what was going on. 

I also thought it peculiar that a couple of props (an inkwell, a painting of a dog) were not onstage.  They were planted in the audience.  Each time they were used, an offstage crew person stood up in the audience to display them.  It took the focus off the actors and moved the focus into the audience. 

These are small quibbles though.  This is a marvelous script, done by a talented cast and crew, in one of the most intimate spaces around.  I would definitely recommend “Six Degrees of Separation” at the Vintage Theater to any theater fan who hasn’t already seen it.

NOTE:  This is not a family show.  It includes adult themes, some vulgarity, and some nudity.

This show runs through March 25, 2012.

Director:            Len Matheo

Cast:                   Lisa DeCaro             Ouisa
                            Josh Hartwell            Flan
                            Theo Wilson              Paul
                             Matt Sheahan           Geoffrey

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