The Great Imposter: ‘Six Degrees of Separation’

“There are two sides to every story,” says a character in John Guare’s prize-winning dramedy, Six Degrees of Separation, now getting its first Broadway revival since its 1990 Lincoln Center premiere (first at the Newhouse, then at the Beaumont). There are also two sides—one standing for chaos, one for control—to the Kandinsky painting slowly rotating as it hangs over the red-swathed, sparingly furnished apartment (designed by Mark Wendland and exquisitely lit by Ben Stanton), in which most of the play transpires. And there are certainly two sides, if not more, to this play, based on an actual rip-off that happened to friends of the playwright in 1983, and to a number of other suckers, some notables among them.

Have you ever been conned by someone with a reasonably respectable appearance asking you for assistance because, let’s say, they’ve run out of gas and desperately need a few dollars to get home? If so, think about the moxie it would take to stab yourself enough to bloody your shirt before barging into the Fifth Avenue aerie of a wealthy couple, claiming to have been mugged in Central Park, to be the Harvard friend of their children, and, best of all, to be the son of Sidney Poitier, who’s in town to direct, of all things, a movie version of Cats.

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