“Six Degrees of Separation” Produced by Theatre 9/12

If you are not yet familiar with Theatre 9/12 you ought to be. This is a teaching theatre where professional actors go to hone their skills (think Stanislavski or Stella Adler). The group presents one, possibly two, plays a year, and inevitably they are brilliantly performed. The plays are always among the noteworthy of American theatre, such as “Speed the Plow,” “Doubt,” and “Waiting for Lefty.” This winter they are presenting “Six Degrees of Separation” by John Guare.

Director Charles Waxberg has mounted it in the round. Because the plays are performed in the Parish Hall of Trinity Church on 8th Ave., there are some limitations. The Hall has a raised stage, but the seats are not stepped for easy viewing. Generally, Waxberg seats the audience around the action, and that seems to work well. The sets are simple but most effective, and everyone in the audience has a splendid view.

“Six Degrees of Separation” won the Pulitzer in 1990 and was nominated for a Tony. It concerns a wealthy New York white couple into whose lives comes, unannounced, a young African American man who appears to have been mugged in Central Park and claims to be a friend of their children who are away at Harvard. Strange though his unexpected arrival is, the young man seems to know everything about the couple’s children. He’s gracious and suave. He says he’s Sidney Poitier’s son. On and on spins his tale, replete with details about their children and their own lives.

Meanwhile the couple is revealed to have big money, expensive paintings and lush living, but their lives seem somewhat hollow. Of course she wants to care for this poor wounded friend of her children. And, the fact that he is the son of a famous actor is almost too wonderful. The young man wants them to meet his father! The prospect of rubbing shoulders with celebrity is thrilling to them.

Ahh! Don’t they know that one must eschew false values, and certainly celebrity worship is one of them, Beware of con men. This one, this charming, well-spoken con man leaves a trail of broken lives behind him we learn as the play progresses.

Of course the acting is wonderful here. As I said, it always is. Theatre 9/12 quietly does its thing, and inevitably it delights its audiences. It has no set ticket price. Audience members are asked to make a donation when they walk in. It’s one of Seattle’s lovely little treasures.

Through Feb. 19 at the Parish Hall of Trinity Church, 609 8th Ave., Seattle, www.Theatre912.com.

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