Too close but still comfortable: “Six Degrees of Separation”

Credit: Paul Cantillon,

Credit: Paul Cantillon,

Produced by Bad Habit Productions
Written by John Guare
Directed by Liz Fenstermaker

November 7-22, 2015
Deane Hall at the Boston Center for the Arts
Boston, MA
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(Boston, MA) Six Degrees of Separation was a celebrated play when it first hit New York stages, portraying stereotypes of the city, moneyed New Yorkers and people who aspire to be moneyed New Yorkers. This production elevates the writing to present a mix that is more than the Law & Order rerun it would like to be.

One night, a middle aged New York couple host someone they think is a friend of their kids. They are wrong. The premise itself delivers more than can be sustained over the course of the play. Fast-moving scenes zoom in and out of the official timeline. Much of the show is delivered straight to the audience and the breaking of the fourth wall on a regular basis is a bit like being held hostage to a dinner party story that is equal parts horrible and hilarious. There is a sense that the writer wants this play to be arty and cerebral, but only succeeds in presenting a sad and somewhat predictable series of tableaus each successively less spectacular than the first fifteen minutes.

Actors not participating in a scene were visibly waiting in the wings, sometimes in the audience, taut with attention to the words and movement as if waiting for a bus or a train, ready to engage or disengage at a moment’s notice. Elyas Deen Harris (Paul) is resplendent here, wearing many intriguing masks and enjoying his character’s trickster nature. If Paul is the embodiment of Coyote, all other players are quite serious, genuine and fine support for the mysteries he represents.

Bad Habit Productions has a good habit of making intimate theatre feel expansive. Tricks of lighting and stationary set pieces allowed for quick transitions and shifts of focus to lift the oft dreary subject matter towards some kind of conclusion. Light jazz trickled like the paintings suspended above the stage, with light and sound drawing focus to key emotional moments.

Simultaneously, BHP will present a family production O, Ship! Aboard the Ship! in the same space from November 14th to the 21st. Next on deck for their current season in March 2016 is Speech and Debate by Stephen Karam.

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