Six Degrees of Separation – ‘Pitch Perfect’; Flicker Bit: ‘Unconditional Love’ – Romping Fun!; Circo Zero’s ‘Sol Niger’: Sensual

by Buzzin' Lee Hartgrave on September 28, 2007


Truth can be adjusted! I have seen “Six Degrees” on the stage before. But, having seen this production at the Playhouse, I now realize that I actually didn’t see “Six Degrees” the first time. What I saw then was a cold and non-moving experience. Now comes along a marvelous interpretation of the play and it simply made my socks roll up and down. From the moment I saw the stage with its centerpiece of a Kandinsky painting in the middle of the sumptuous Rotunda room that yells “Rich” – I was hooked. Even before the action starts, the painting swivels around to show both sides of the Kandinsky. It was mesmerizing.

Here we are in a New York Upper Class apartment with John Flanders “Flan” and Quisa Kittridge. And from what I hear they are not as rich as they would like to be. Their comfort zone is on the edge. Flan is an Art Dealer who deals in what seems to be risk- taking deals between anonymous buyers and sellers.

One evening they are expecting a South African who is supposed to have millions, but never seems to pay for dinner. But they are confidant that he has money and that they can involve him in an investment scheme. He too, is a wheeler and a dealer. While chatting up their South African friend and pouring drinks like they were M & M’s. All of a sudden a young African American boy stumbles from the Elevator into their living room. He seems to be injured with a stab wound. They take him to the bathroom to clean him up and give him a shirt that belongs to their son. He thanks them and tells them that he was robbed, but that he must go because his father will be expecting him to meet him at the Airport early in the morning. And the con game begins.

They are completely taken in by his charm. They ask him to join them for dinner. He tells them that they have done enough for him. They insist that he go with them. He then pulls this out of his bag of tricks. “Why don’t I fix dinner for all of us here?” Again, the charm would curl the wallpaper and Barbie Dolls would begin to dispense coffee. Nothing now that he says to the gullible couple is too far-fetched, especially when he lets it slip that his father is Actor Sydney Poitier.

The young man, who claims to be Poitier’s son further, dazzles them with conversation about art, philosophy, literature, and culture. The upwardly mobile couple is completely wowed by his knowledge. And most of all, the Harvard educated Son of Sydney Poitier has promised them that he would talk to his father about getting them in his Father’s new movie “Cats” based on the Stage musical, only instead of dressing as Cats they would be real people in the movie.

They ask him to spend the night. He again protests that they have already done too much for him and that he will find a cheap hotel somewhere. Not wanting to see this precious contact walk out of their lives they insist that he stay in their sons bedroom. In the morning however, they are surprised by something. Quisa hears sexual sounds coming from the bedroom and opens the door and out darts a blonde naked ‘Hustler’ that the dapper well-educated young man brought home while they were asleep. They throw the pair out of the house. But, that is not the end. Later in the play there are others that are hoodwinked. This all may sound like it couldn’t be true. But, it is so easy to fool the rich and foolish. They are so desperate to have ‘connections’ that the thought of a Son of a famous movie star was just too much for them to give up. His biggest mistake was bringing the ‘Hustler’ into their life.

However – he is not deterred. He hits on several of their neighbors with a similar story. They also are taken in by his undeniable charm. He is slicker than oil.

Watching this play can’t help but give you a chill. How many phonies have you known in your life? Although Paul is phony…so are the Kittridge’s. The play is based on a real incident. The title actually means that we are six people from knowing everyone in the world. If you take that literally we are only six people away from a Dictator in the middle east…The Pope in the Vatican…. a Sheik in Saudi Arabia…and the President of Iran…and in the same breath, Bush and the Iranian Prez are only six people away from knowing someone who knows someone.

The Cast armed with a fantastic script – are outstanding. Susi Damilano is ‘Breathtakingly Brilliant’ as Quisa. Robert Parsons (Flanders) is truly inspired in this role. Daveed Diggs as Paul, the young con man is exceptional and intensely moving. These actors also made huge impressions in this “Six Degrees” production. They are Ken Sorkin (various roles), Daniel Krueger (various roles), Julia McNeal, John Mercer, Jennifer Siebel, Chad Deverman (various roles) and Christopher Maikish. What a way to start a New Season at the SF Playhouse. This “Six” is fast-paced and smart.

The Direction by Bill English is Edgy and Pitch Perfect. English also designed the gorgeous set. I wonder if I can get him to re-do my living room? The Lighting by Selina Young is transfixing. Oh, and by the way – on Opening night Gavin Newsom dropped by and stayed for the party afterward. I guess he liked it.


RATING: FOUR GLASSES OF CHAMPAGNE!!!! –highest rating. –trademarked-


This new performance piece by Keith Hennessey’s Circo Zero has a lot going for it. The music and lighting are fantastic achievements. There is a haunting rendition of “Tomorrow” from the “Annie” musical. I have never heard it sung so beautifully. It’s done with a slower tempo and becomes fantastically memorable. Forget the “Annie” version of brassiness.

There are political references that show scenes with the actors wearing black hoods and beating on what looked like a bedroll, obviously to bring on visions of Abu Graib prison. Some of what the Circo Company does, reminds of Cirque de Soleil. But, at least they don’t squirt water at the audience. The action kind of bogs down in the middle of the show when they do the trapeze stuff. Since they are limited because of the confines of the Theater, there really wasn’t a heck of a lot that they could do. What they did do was somewhat thought provoking, but it went on for far too long.

What I really liked about the show was the extremely talented Piano Player Sean Feit, who is a classically trained composer. His music is bold, dazzling and filled with fresh insights. I would have liked to hear more singing. The Lighting design by Max was remarkable. The Choreography by Keith Hennessy was eloquent and enlightening. It speaks with vibrancy. The entire show has a Zen feel to it. Relaxing and drifting. Just don’t stay on the ropes too long.



Rupert Everett and Kathy Bates in Unconditional Love. Photo: New Line Cinema

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE has something for everyone. There is Barry Manilow, a dwarf and Kathy Bates. Sure, it has ridiculous situations in it (Birds suddenly appear) and people just suddenly burst into song. And that can be dangerous, because out there in the dark is a man with a Cross Bow that shoots anyone who sings. It drives him batty. But this is what makes this quirky movie such fun. It is really very entertaining and engaging. Kathy Bates as a ‘homemaker’ is really a bizarre character. She shines in this movie with great subtlety and depth. She’s a common housewife who seeks adventure after her husband leaves her. She meets a Dead Pops stars (Jonathan Price) gay lover (Rupert Everett). Grace (Bates) determines to start getting on with her live.She gets plenty of support from her dwarf daughter-in-law Meredith Eaton, who is just hilarious, and a wonderful actor.

And guess what? Kathy Bates also sings – and has a terrific voice. There are even some great cameo appearances including Julie Andrews and Manilow. This story of course, is completely unbelievable. There is a Drawbridge scene that will make you hold your breath. And all along the way “The Pop” star sings some wonderful 40’s songs even after he is dead (Think of Elvis in Gaudy Outfits). It’s a comfort film that was never released (except for the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian film festival) because the studio PR department didn’t know how to market it. This is one of the best movies I have seen in ages, and much better than what you pay for. You’ll laugh and cry – its just touches the heartstrings. I was captivated.

Sometimes it pays to surf T.V. I came across it by accident this week on Cable 50. It may pop up on other channels. It may also show up on the Starz Network. I plan to look for it. Or — it is available on DVD.

RATING: FOUR BOXES OF POPCORN. (highest rating) – trademarked-


Jeannette Bayardelle and Michelle Williams in ‘Color Purple’. Photo: Paul Kolnik.

Fa-Lash: Berkeley Rep News (Dateline Berkeley) Tony-winner Frank Galati stages “After The Quake”…They reveal attractive new ticket prices…Tony Taccone takes ‘Bridge & Tunnel to L.A. The Rep also celebrates its birthday with: Free book club for every show. Free family programs every month and Fall classes at the School of Theatre.

Plot of Quake: In the aftermath of the Kobe Earthquake, Japan’s illustrious author Haruki Murakami penned a beautiful book of stories. Galati has put together a tender and inventive adaptation for the stage. Previews begin on Oct. 12. Opens: Oct. 17. Galati remarks: “Murakami is one of the most dazzling and mysterious writers of fiction in our contemporary world. He is deeply poetic.”

THE COLOR PURPLE opens on Oct 12 at the Orpheum Theatre. The sweeping Tony nominated epic is selling out fast. So, I would get your tickets soon for what I call the African American “Gone With The Wind.” It’s a beautiful and touching story. Bring some hankies.


Six Degrees of Separation – a fabulous production. The movie “Delirious” is extraordinary. The Jane Austen Book Club movie has depth and humanity.

That’s a Wrap! Do you agree? Let Buzzin know.

And what did you see that YOU liked?

The Photo of Lee Hartgrave Boy Reporter is by Jim Ferreira – Film Noir & Hollywood Glamour.



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Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave

Buzzin’ Lee Hartgrave is a longtime theater critic in the San Francisco Bay Area. His reviews appear each Friday in Beyond Chron.

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