Six Degrees

Review From User :

First things first: read this play in one sitting.

Seriously. You've got to read it all at once. There are no acts or scene breaks and the dialogue and action is continuous, plus it's only 55 pages, so read it in one sitting.

Onto the play itself. It's brilliant. Or at least I thought it was. It's clever-very clever-but it never becomes pretentious or crosses the line into self-indulgence. The dialogue never seems separated from the action, in fact it conveys the action, it is the action. It's intelligent and breathless and effervescent, with characters constantly finishing each other's sentences and speaking on the phone and speaking to the audience, but it's smooth, too, transitioning seamlessly from flashbacks and reminiscences to dream sequences and fights.

"Seamlessness" seems to be a word used a lot in praise of this play-in fact, on the back of my copy, it's used in two of the three blurbs:

"...cunningly executed, seemingly seamlessly joined, interlarded with clever one-liners, alternating comic situations with mildly disturbing ones... SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION is a play about everything, with something in it for everyone..." -New York Magazine

"Among the many remarkable aspects of Mr. Guare's writing is the seamlessness of his imagery, characters and themes, as if this play had erupted from his own imagination in one perfect piece." -The New York Times

"In one perfect piece." That's how I'd describe it, too. Which is funny because Guare, in his preface, talks about the inherent difficulty of writing and of getting back to that which is truly "us," and in doing so he tries to get us to believe that he has slaved over this play, but I still suspect that it only took him as long as it takes to physically type up the script-two days, max. Which makes me incredibly envious.

Sure, there's more to it than brilliant writing. There are larger concepts churning behind all this wonderful dialogue-love, death, class, the value of the imagination, the purpose of deception, the fragmented nature of a life-but the great thing about Six Degrees of Separation is that even if you don't bother thinking about any of these themes and just take the play on its face, it's still wonderful. Which seems impossible, because like The Times said above, everything is so SEAMLESSLY bound up together, characters-themes-dialogue-plot, but the magic of this play is that somehow, somehow (is it magic) they all stand on their own too.

Before I go, I want to mention the movie adaptation. I actually watched it before reading the play (sacrilege, I know-but, in my defence, I didn't know it was an adaptation until after I saw it!) and loved it. I have a lot more respect for it after reading the source material, too; the script is almost exactly the same, word for word. All the actors are great and I highly recommend it-the ending is slightly more definitive than the play's ending, too-plus the casting, in my opinion, is spot on. Young, gay Will Smith! (I'm pretty sure this was his debut movie, too.) Hippie Anthony Michael Hall! South African Ian McKellen! Stockard Channing & Donald Sutherland at their most charming! What could be better And if, for some unfathomable reason, you don't want to read the play and want to watch it instead, I'm confident that you'd get alllllmost as much out of the movie as you would out of the play, since they're so close.

All in all, I loved this play, I loved this story. There are some really breathtaking monologues and witty exchanges and the dialogue is generally noteworthy, but taken as a whole, this play is just something else. Five stars, easy.


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