By Sarah Nicell || Campus Life Editor
“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by six other people,” says Ouisa (Keats Dai), the wife of a money-hungry art dealer in New York City in 1990. “The President of the United States. A gondolier in Venice.”
Last weekend, November 11th through November 13th, F&M’s student-run Green Room Theater Club put on a production of Six Degrees of Separation, written by playwright John Guare. The play tells the story of Ouisa and Flan (Andrew Rosica), married art dealers who attempt desperately to solidify a purchase in order to get rich. Their scheming is interrupted when a young man with a mild stab wound stumbles into their apartment, claiming to know their children from Harvard. He says his name is Paul (Idris Mansaray). He also alleges that he is: friends with their kids, writing a controversial thesis on The Catcher in the Rye, and the son of esteemed actor Sidney Poitier. Poitier, according to Paul, is making a movie of the musical Cats with people playing the cats. Guare was clearly ahead of his time.
Of course, none of this is true. Who would believe that? To their misfortune and naiveté, the couple rewards Paul with a clean pink button-down shirt, fifty dollars, and permission to stay for the night. He uses the money to pay for a hustler, who proceeds to chase Ouisa around their home until they kick Paul out on the street.
Paul proceeds to scam others in the city, pretending to save a family from a thief, breaking into the home of a doctor, and ultimately causing the suicide of Rick (Aislinn Wallin), another man he conned. The play does not end happily. In fact, most characters don’t seem to learn much of anything.
“Six degrees of separation,” Ouisa emphasized. “Between us and everybody else on the planet.”
Despite their differences, each character finds the other through a series of wants, needs, and scams: Ouisa and Paul, Rick and Paul, Flan and Geoffrey (Aislinn Wallin), a billionaire from South Africa who provides the money for Flan’s art bargain. Connections are made through a plethora of lies, and untangling them proves itself to be impossible. Paul never leaves Ousia’s mind, even after his disappearance, his arrest, and his presumed suicide. They are close, bonded despite never truly knowing each other, because no one can be that far apart. Six degrees of separation, at most. Often fewer.
As I watched Ouisa’s monologue, I thought about my degrees of separation from important people. How far was I from the President of the United States? From a gondolier in Venice? From the author of this play?
I was fortunate to be a mere one degree of separation from this absolutely wonderful cast and production staff of this production by the Green Room Theatre Club.
Directed by Lauryn Harper and assistant directed by Cal Curran, the production staff ensured that everything ran smoothly. Each scene flowed into the next without issue, and the blocking felt natural and exciting. As an audience member, I was never bored, and I understood what was going on perfectly. While those qualities seem simple, they can be difficult to attain on an elevated stage without microphones and with clunky masks, so I commend these students for achieving something quite difficult.
The standout performance of the hour was Idris Mansaray as Paul, who captured every second of our attention with his every word. His movements matched the sporadic and energetic nature his role demanded, and despite the crimes his character committed, I found myself wanting to root for him. His lengthy monologues must have been a challenge, but I could not tell. Idris performed with ease.
Keats and Andrew convincingly play a complicated art-dealing couple, corrupted by their careers and each other. Yael Asofsky’s Doug, the moody teenage son of Dr. Fine (Carolyn South)—another victim of Paul’s scams—added a necessary level of hilarity to the dark plot. Kayla Mejia’s Elizabeth and Aislinn Wallin’s Rick demonstrated real chemistry, and when shit hit the fan, tangible devastation and panic. Emma Hawkins’s Kitty is a glimmer of excitement and enthusiasm in a show consumed by trigger warnings. Simon Cull’s Trent is pleading, love-struck, and instrumental to the development of plot tension.
The set was simple and effective, while still communicating the elegance expected of Flan and Ouisa’s luxurious lifestyle. Anna Waldstein-Torres designed said set with two love seats, rotating artwork, and a lovely backdrop, placing the audience exactly where they need to be. I must admit I was very impressed with the lighting of this show thanks to Stage Manager and Light Designer Bridget Daigle. The transitions were seamless. In scenes with high tension, with an onset of panic, the stage grew dark and red, and darker and redder, until there was no more light and no more red, and I loved it. Similarly, the costumes by Clementine Ly were expertly assembled. Not a scrap of fabric appeared out of place.
With a mere couple degrees of separation between you, the reader of The College Reporter, and these wonderful actors and staff, be sure to congratulate them on an amazing show. They certainly deserve it.
Sarah Nicell is a sophomore and the Campus Life Editor for The College Reporter. Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.