Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Wily drama explores human fallibility

‘Six Degrees of Separation’ at nexStage Theatre June 5-14


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Patsy Wygle and Keith Moore play Ouisa and Flan Kittredge, who are being hustled in John Guare’s “Six Degree of Separation” at the nexStage Theatre. Photo by David N. Seelig

When freelance director Bruce Hostetler was asked by the nexStage Theatre to direct John Guare's Pulitzer- and Tony-nominated play "Six Degrees of Separation," he could not resist. Hostetler has been a veteran director and actor in several productions at the Ketchum theater, including the annual Shakespeare Festival.

"I just want to make good theater with friends," Hostetler said. "I love to work with people here and wanted to come back."

Hostetler's career mirrors the concept of "Six Degrees of Separation" in which every person someone meets is a door to a thousand people. When casting the play, he was searching for an African-American lead and recalled Chicago-based actor Brandon Saunders, whom he knew at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. Hostetler thought the young actor would be a great fit and knew he could find him on Facebook—a virtual six degrees of separation.

"The play has very identifiable people," Hostetler said. "The lead characters want to connect to people. As I direct, I am focusing on how far away people are on stage and how they look on stage. The physical look of people making connections is very important."

Saunders' character is based on real-life con artist David Hampton, who inspired Guare to write the play and also inspired a 1993 film adaptation of the same title. The play begins with a young black man named Paul (Saunders) showing up at Flan and Ouisa Kittredge's New York City apartment overlooking Central Park. Flan, a high-end art dealer selling a Paul Cézanne painting, is interrupted by Paul, who has a stab wound. Paul tells the Kittredges he is a friend of their son and daughter at Harvard University.

"The story on one level is a detective story," Hostetler said. "We don't know who Paul is, how he got access and what he wants."

Hostetler said the play is intriguing and exciting because it happens in real time and has a beginning, middle and end. Audience members become engaged because they look for meaning and an experience because they can relate to the story.

"It's a really funny play," Hostetler said. "The audience will laugh a great deal."

The large cast for "Six Degrees of Separation" includes many valley actors including Chris Campbell, Dean Cerutti, Dana DuGan, Mac Harbaugh, Jared Levasseur, Jeff Maxwell, Andrew McKaige, Bostin Mitchell, Keith Moore, Doug Neff, Kaley Pruitt, Jessica Rice, Jamey Reynolds, James Wells and Patsy Wygle.

"Six Degrees of Separation" will be performed June 5-14 at the nexStage. A preview on Thursday, June 4, will take place at 7 p.m. and will cost $10. A champagne opening is scheduled for Friday, June 5, at 8 p.m., with an opportunity to meet the director and the cast. General seating is $25 and reserved seating is $35. For more times and dates, call 726-4857.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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