"Six Degrees of Separation" is one of playwright John Guare's best. With just the right mix of tragedy and comedy, the play becomes a tool to talk about the ills of America disconnectedness, racism, homophobia, division between economic classes.
University Theatre, under the direction of Doug Weaver, does a fine job of bringing Guare's play to life, reflecting the pace of New York City in the quick delivery of lines and never-lagging action.
Guare's play is word intensive, and every word counts. So it's too bad some of those words on opening night never made it past the first few rows of listeners because of weak projection. But that's the only criticism of this production.
Xavier Rice's portrayal of Paul who fools Ouisa and Flan, an upper-class couple, into taking him in by saying he's the son of Sidney Poitier is by far his best performance to date. This young actor's abilities certainly have matured during his time at KU.
Other standouts: John Luzar as Geoffrey, the South African art collector; Alexander Holt as Doug, a defiant doctor's son; and Allison Gabbard as Ouisa, who misses the brief, but false, connection she had with Paul.
Some believe that Guare is the Shakespeare of our times. So it is especially exciting to see Del Unruh's "theater-in-the-round" scenic design for the show. The main action takes place on a three-dimensional, trapezoid-shaped platform with the real audience in front and cast members filling the circular rim on-stage. A second-level platform takes us to other locations a bedroom, the hallway outside the apartment, etc. In the play, Guare writes, "Imagination is the place we're all trying to get to." Unruh's design sets us on the right course.
"Six Degrees of Separation" will continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14 in Crafton-Preyer in Murphy Hall. The play runs one hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission.