I can connect you to 50 Cent in three easy steps: if you are reading this, you know me, which is the first step. The second step is that my best friend in grad school busted her wrist snowboarding, and I went with her to the doctor's office. It was an hour in an NYU Medical Center waiting room before he greeted us—he was uptown treating 50 Cent. That's the third step.
Whether you buy the premise that any two random people on the entire planet (Kevin Bacon being the classic example) can be linked through a chain of six or fewer acquaintances—the premise behind John Guare's award-winning play Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Gary Krinke and now showing at Stages Theatre—you've got to admit that the concept is fascinating. Armed with the everyday epiphany that we are all in this world together and that the Butterfly Effect is in full operation, John Guare's play tells the story of Paul (DeLon Howell), an impostor who gains access to the homes and hearts of a wealthy art-dealing couple, Flan (Brian Kojac) and Ouisa (Arlyn MacDonald), by claiming he is Sidney Poitier's son and a school friend of their children.
A demanding, wordy play like Six Degrees of Separation deserves the most careful and specific of direction; and, although the first half of Stages' production is full of illogical blocking and frantic line delivery, the show eventually slows to a steady pace and the actors and the philosophically intriguing script are allowed to breathe.
Kojac's Flan and MacDonald's Ouisa are truly fantastic throughout, creating and sustaining the high society world that is threatened by the less-than-believable characters who enter it throughout the performance. Howell does an amazing job of channeling Will Smith's arresting performance in the 1993 film, in which Smith played the brilliant and obsessive Paul. And he proves, in a stunning scene with Ouisa, when it becomes clear Paul's grand delusions have overtaken him, that he's much more than a Smith impressionist.
If you can avoid being distracted by the pacing—and the occasionally inconsistent lighting that illuminates set pieces instead of actors—performances like his make Separation a rewarding and challenging night of theater.
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION, STAGES THEATER, 400 E. COMMONWEALTH AVE., STE. 4, FULLERTON, (714) 525-4484. FRI.-SAT., 8 P.M.; SUN., 6 P.M. THROUGH FEB. 18. $16.