If you thought John Guare’s SIX DREGREES OF SEPARATION (@ BCA through Nov. 22nd) couldn’t have much to say after twenty-five years, you’d be mistaken. In fact, there’s a jolt in the dialogue which makes even more impact now than it did in 1990.
Guare’s play, inspired by real events, concerns several wealthy New Yorkers who were taken in by an imposter claiming to be friends with their children. They put him up for the night and when he tells them he is Sydney Poitier’s son, they fawn over him in hopes of rubbing elbows with his famous father.
The wife of an ambitious art dealer in whose home he stayed can’t bring herself to hate him. After all, he didn’t take anything from their lavish apartment. She urges him to turn himself in to the police just to explain. When he’s skeptical about the treatment he’ll receive, she says with a chuckle, “I don’t think they’ll kill you.” To which he replies “I’m black.”
Now, thanks to the internet and cell phone cameras, even rich people know what Fats Waller knew in 1935 (“I’m white on the inside but that don’t help my case” from Waller’s Black and Blue): If you’re black, you can be killed for far less.
Guare doesn’t just tell a story, he indicts the rich and their entitled, Ivy League children with blistering comedy. Their shallow lifestyle and lack of moral fiber is held up to ridicule—and to extensive examination in the more preachy (“You’re not what you think you are”) parts of the play.
Bad Habit’s production has one of Boston’s best directors at the helm: Liz Fenstermaker wisely highlights the humor she can mine from the nasty, privileged children who have no patience, or respect for that matter, for their affluent parents—and she plays those confrontations just short of farce. They’re hilarious, a nifty counterpoint to the Sturm und Drang of the expositional scenes.
Fenstermaker’s cast is tops, with Christine Power and Steven L. Emanuelson wonderfully obtuse as the prosperous couple at the center of the story who welcome Elyas Deen Harris as their counterfeit guest. Janelle Mills and Steve Auger (“I don’t want to know!”) are quite amusing as the second couple the mysterious Harris is able to fool.
Dani Berkowitz, Kevin Hanley, Ben Heath and Alex Portenko as the disagreeable young people (and other characters) are deliciously offensive. Best of all is C.D. Matthew Murphy in three distinct roles, as a South African wheeler dealer who can put his hands on two million dollars at the drop of a hat, then as a hard boiled city cop and as a lonely, gullible doctor. It’s fine ensemble work. Don’t miss it.