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Six Degrees of Separation

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SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, Raven Theatre. This Rogers Park company has carved a niche for itself doing solid, modestly budgeted revivals of classic American plays like The Glass Menagerie and You Can't Take It With You. Now Raven has turned its attention to a more contemporary work, with fine results. John Guare's thought-provoking 1991 comedy-drama, set among the upper crust of Manhattan's Upper East Side, concerns a wealthy white couple whose complacency is shaken by a young black con man. "Paul Poitier" insinuates himself into the home of Flan and Ouisa Kittredge by pretending to be the son of actor Sidney Poitier. By the time the full scope of his dangerous scam is exposed, this pathological liar's strangely touching case has forced Ouisa to confront the insularity of her existence.

JoAnn Montemurro and Bill McGough's performances as the Kittredges and Michael Menendian's simple set fail to convey the sleek stylishness the play is meant to evoke. But director Scott Shallenbarger's thoughtful, discreetly expressive production probes the quizzical heart of Guare's script far more deeply than did Michael Leavitt's slick Chicago-premiere staging at the Briar Street Theatre in 1992. The ambiguous relationship between Montemurro's perplexed, compassionate Ouisa and newcomer R.J. Jones's needy, chameleonic Paul provides a solid anchor for the play's prickly consideration of subjects as wide-ranging as the mechanics of art-world wheeling and dealing, the effect of Catcher in the Rye on generations of troubled adolescents, and the links between race and class in American society. --Albert Williams

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