Friday, November 13, 2015

Bad Habit Productions Presents "Six Degrees of Separation" by John Guare - How Do We Tell A Forgery From The Real Thing?

Bad Habits Productions has chosen as their theme for this, their ninth season, "To Face Ourselves." The current production of John Guare's classic "Six Degrees of Separation" certainly fits that theme to a T.  I have always enjoyed this play and the various productions I have seen of it over the years. Bad Habit's rendition of this work is very well done, with a gifted cast working in harmony under the direction of Liz Fenstermaker.  One of the elements that added to my enjoyment of this production was the set design of Kevin Deane Parker.  One of the over-arcing themes of this play is that of the duality of the human spirit.  That duality is representing emblematically by a painting by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky.  The picture has been painted on both sides of the canvases, and is hung so that it rotates to reveal both the obverse and the reverse sides. As the narrative of the play develops, we also get to see more than one side of each character.  Along with the Kandinsky, there are other paintings hanging in the home of Flan Kittredge (Steven L. Emanuelson) and his wife Ouisa (Christine Power).  Each painting is beautifully framed, with the exception of the aforementioned Kandinsky.  Its gilded frame appears to have exploded, and remnants of that broken frame hang along with the paintings.  The Director and Set Designer are telling us to expect that there will be some coloring outside the lines and pushing of the envelope in the action to follow, as well as things blowing apart.

The plot centers on a young man, Paul (Elyas Deen Harris), who insinuates himself into the lives of several families, claiming to have been attacked and robbed, and also claiming to be the son of Sidney Poitier.  Mr. Kittredge, who as a high-end art dealer is very familiar with the process of establishing a painting's provenance and authenticity, is completely fooled by this brilliant, charming and glib forgery of a human being.  Both Flan and Ouisa are mesmerized by Paul's promise to talk with his father and ask him to include them as extras in the father's upcoming project to turn "Cats" into a motion picture!  This couple and two other couples warm up to Paul's duplicity as if he is redolent of cat nip.

The fawning over the Kittredges and their rich South African guest stands in marked contrast to the surly and dismissive treatment of the spoiled teenage Kittredge children to their parents.  Paul has researched the family's every nuanced secret, and wins their trust by claiming to have been at Harvard with the son. He succeeds in employing a tactic that worked well for the Soviet Union's propaganda machine during the Cold War: The Big Lie.  Paul's tall tales are so outrageous and implausible, that no one even considers that they may not be true. This phenomenon provides a fascinating window into human nature.

Each of the actors listed below portrays their character(s) with skill, but the heart of the play and of this production is Paul as portrayed by Mr. Harris.  His innocent good looks are enough like that of Mr. Poitier to make him a plausible offspring of the pioneering Oscar-winning movie star.  Paul's grasp of arcane knowledge about each family member and household facts is a daunting encyclopedia to commit to memory, and Mr. Harris never falters.  It is an outstanding performance that shines among many other excellent performances by the rest of the cast.

Elyas Deen Harris as Paul
"Six Degrees of Separation"
Bad Habit Productions
BCA - Calderwood Pavilion
Through November 22

Consult the schedule of performances below, and order your tickets.  This production is no forgery, but is the genuine article, perfectly framed and hung for your inspection and enjoyment at the Calderwood Pavilion.

Bad Habit Productions Website

"Six Degrees of Separation"
Bad Habit Productions
BCA - Calderwood Pavilion
Through November 22

Directed by Liz Fenstermaker
Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA

November 13, 8pm
November 14, 8pm
November 18, 7:30pm
November 19, 7:30pm
November 20, 8pm
November 21, 8pm
November 22, 2pm

Written by John Guare, Directed by Liz Fenstermaker; Devon Fitchett, Assistant Director; Matthew Ciborowski, Stage Manager; Kendrick Terrell Evans, Assistant Stage Manager; Maura Neff, Costume Designer; Connor O'Leary, Properties Designer; Kevin Deane Parker, Scenic Designer; PJ Strachman, Lighting Designer; Andrew Duncan Will, Sound Designer; Joe Ouellette, Master Carpenter
CAST: Steve Auger, Dani Berkowitz, Steven L. Emanuelson, Kevin Hanley, Elyas Deen Harris, Ben Heath, Janelle Mills, C.D. Matthew Murphy, Alex Portenko, Christine Power

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