John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation

The Theatre department at Stony Brook University recently reenacted John Guare’s play Six Degrees of Separation. These talented young actors and actresses did a truly fabulous job of presenting each of the individual characters and their personalities. Although there were a few minor mistakes along the way the play turned out to be quite funny, which was entirely unexpected and appreciated by the audience. Given the lack of budget that a state Universities theatre department has the lighting and prop design done for this play was wonderful.

The furniture in the upscale apartment of Ouisa and Flan was both contemporary and elegant. So to the costume design was eloquent, simple, and highly representative of the time period. There were over 100 lighting cues in this production, which created a wonderfully enhanced mood. For example when Ouisa and Flan find out that Paul is gay and later when he is taken to jail before their arrival the lights dim to show their emotion.

Again when Paul is sitting in Central Park with his two new friends Rick and Elizabeth the foliage cue is displayed on a white cloth-like wall behind them to represent the outdoors, these instances are just a few of which, that contributed to a well designed production. Certain mistakes are made by the actors during the course of the play that are minor but meaningful, such as Paul’s and Ousia’s inability to speak clearly, which is what these upper-class characters are noted for.

The business on the stage needs to be carried out in an upper-class manor, and when Paul adds ice to his wineglass with the chilled wine already in it, this represents ignorance. Within the play the actors/actresses address the audience directly to give them information about upcoming events or to explain past scenes. This personalizes the play a great deal and makes the atmosphere in the theatre very warm and friendly. With a play like Six Degrees this personalization is almost required because of the issues that are being addressed such as gender, love, and relationships.

A character by the name of Larkin who is played by an up and coming theatre giant, Glen Beck represents what is the stereotypical White Anglo Saxon Protestant. He argues with his prissy Barbie doll of a wife every chance he gets and is disinterested in all of the things his children might be doing wrong. His dialogues over the course of the play represent a subtle comedy that can only be expressed by laughter. The music in this production played a rather large role in the delivery of emotion to the audience.

When Paul gives his speech dealing with “imagination is the place we are all trying to get to” the music in the background is conducive to the theme of triumph. Again when the kids in the play make an entrance, late 80’s rock is played to annunciate the attitudes of these anti-disestablished youth’s. All in all the music production that followed the scenes in the play were on time and properly conveyed the moods of the characters. John Guare’s, Six Degrees of Separation touches on many points that need to be addressed in today’s society, such as deceit, gender and racial issues, parental love, and most of all human interaction.

It takes a strong willed person like Ouisa to see past the mask of deceit and get to the root, Paul’s need for love and acceptance. He wasn’t trying to hurt anyone or make them do anything that they weren’t willing to offer instead he was merely trying to fit in with a group in society. The theatre department at Stony Brook University did a truly fabulous job of producing, directing, designing, and of course acting this play to it’s peak of potential.

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