Review: “Six Degrees of Separation” – St. John’s Drama Society
“Six Degrees of Separation” is a piercing play that masterfully explores themes of identity, class, and race with a deft touch. It was written by Paul Guare and inspired by a true story.
First performed in 1990, it is a timeless piece that was later nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and continues to resonate with audiences today. The production, put on as part of the St. John’s College Arts Week 2023 and directed by Elspeth Rogers and produced by Letty Hosie, was no different.
The play begins with Flan (Cosimo Asvisio) and Ouisa Kittridge (Annabelle McInroy), a wealthy, New-Yorker art dealer couple, hosting an acquaintance at their home. The evening takes an unexpected turn when a young man with a stab wound knocks on the door. His name is Paul (Marni Wilfred), an apparent friend of the Kittridge’s children, whom he knows from Harvard. Paul is interested in art, showcases excellent cooking skills and shares that he is the son of the famous film director Sidney Poitier. However, Paul is not who he pretends to be, as the Kittridges will soon find out. Through his interactions with the various characters, the audience is given a window into the biases and prejudices of the upper class and the fragile nature of their social constructions.
The opening night was performed in front of a sold-out audience and was well executed, remaining faithful to Guare’s script. Over its 90-minute running time, the performers delivered a captivating and multi-faceted performance that left a lasting impression.
The audience favourite was Marni Wilfred as Paul. He connected especially well with Annabelle McInroy, giving Ouisa Kittridge a special touch in her portrayal of a well-heeled, middle-aged, New-York socialite of the 1990s. The comedic timing and overall performance of Cosimo Asvisio as Flan Kittridge was also outstanding.
Hal Gavin’s performance in the supporting role of Dr. Fine, the divorced obstetrician who is an embarrassment to his son, was spot on. Sol Woodroffe, who took on the two substantially different roles of the billionaire tycoon Geoffrey Miller and then later as the young and naïve Rick, showed notable adaptability.
By keeping the set design nuanced, Antonia Sundrup exceeded in making the background look fitting for all the different locations of the play. However, different choices in the costume design could have facilitated a clearer differentiation between class, age, and role of the characters. David Street’s light design was particularly praiseworthy during scenes where the Kittridges directly addressed the audience, creating a special athmosphere.
John Guare’s script is a tour de force that was brought to life with great success by the talented cast of the St. John’s Drama Society. Anybody that appreciates thought-provoking and socially conscious theatre will have enjoyed the performance, which left theatregoers reflecting on its themes long after the lights faded out.