Ghost & Spice Productions’ presentation of Six Degrees of Separation asks one key question about its characters: What do all these people have in common? The answer proves multifaceted. On the surface, all of the characters end up being victims, in one way or another, of a charming young African-American conman named Paul (J. Alphonse Nicholson), who sashays into multiple lives claiming to be the son of movie star Sidney Poitier. On a deeper level, however, it’s really hard to say. Perhaps it’s greed, an obsession with celebrity, or maybe they have an emptiness or need that Paul sniffs out, fills, and then worsens when he disappears. John Guare’s prize-winning play cleverly and daringly asks audience members to draw their own conclusions. There are no easy answers here, which makes for a thought provoking and endlessly funny night of theatre.
Despite the small working space of Common Ground Theatre, the set still manages to be eye-catchingly complex. An artsy living room, featuring bold colors and a full service bar, is home to most of the action; and the all important Kandinsky, painted on both sides, hangs off to the side, fully visible but not superimposing.
Actors, often playing multiple roles, enter and exit from all heights. However, thanks to careful direction on the part of Rachel Klem, the action never feels cluttered or confusing. The multiple casting works well here, and even serves to make the show feel more intimate and intense.
Lenore Field’s Ouisa explores so many levels. She is sometimes funny, other times vulnerable and naïve, but always fascinating. Newcomer David Sennett, with his booming voice and no-nonsense demeanor, effectively portrays Ouisa’s art dealer husband; and Aaron Dunlap, last seen in a small but memorable role in Mi Vida Loca at Deep Dish Theater, is able to showcase the full range of his talent through the portrayal of six very different roles.
Young Alphonse Nicholson’s Paul is instantly likeable and thoroughly believable, which are exactly the right traits for a conman to have. When the audience is finally given the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Paul’s real life, from a time before he was impersonating Sidney Poitier’s son, the transformation is amazing. Nicholson completely changes his demeanor, voice, and stance.
When it comes down to it, Six Degrees of Separation has everything smart viewers want to see in theater. It’s daring (full-frontal male nudity included), funny, touching, and incredibly powerful. Don’t miss it.
SECOND OPINION: Oct. 10th Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Alan R. Hall: http://cvnc.org/reviews/2010/102010/G&S.html. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Oct. 8th Triangle Theater Review preview by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/10/in-six-degrees-of-separation-a-young-black-con-man-pretends-to-be-the-son-of-actor-sidney-poitier/.)
Ghost & Spice Productions presents SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION at 8 p.m. Oct. 14-16, 2 p.m. Oct. 17, 8 p.m. Oct. 21-23 at Common Ground Theatre, 4815B Hillsborough Road, Durham North Carolina 27705.
TICKETS: $16 ($14 students and seniors), except half-price Thursday on Oct. 14th and 21st.
BOX OFFICE: 888/239-9253 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/130457.
The Play: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Degrees_of_Separation_(play) (Wikipedia), http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=show&id=1215 (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/show.php?ID=8061 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108149/ (Internet Movie Database).
The Playwright: http://www.lortel.org/LLA_archive/index.cfm?search_by=people&first=John&last=Guare&middle= (Internet Off-Broadway Database), http://www.ibdb.com/person.php?id=6822 (Internet Broadway Database), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0345359/ (Internet Movie Database).
To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts & Entertainment reviews online, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/.