Chris HewittPioneer Press
March 10, 2017
Like the great “Tracey Ullman Show,” the play, “Six Degrees of Separation,” is a work of art that is now better remembered for an offshoot than for itself.
Just as “Ullman” gave birth to the still-running “The Simpsons,” John Guare’s “Six Degrees of Separation” eventually led to the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” meme, which has fun with the play’s idea that everyone on the planet is connected to everyone else by six degrees or less: You once baby-sat for someone whose hair was cut by someone who drove a cab for someone who was a student of the Dalai Lama, for instance (that’s only five degrees).
Hopefully, Theater Latte Da’s production, which runs through April 9, will be a reminder that the play remains vital, hilarious and heartbreaking. It’s the story of Ouisa Kitteridge (Sally Wingert) and her family, whose lives are transformed after they come to the aid of a penniless man (JuCoby Johnson) who tells them he is Sidney Poitier’s son. (Tickets, from $48-$35, are at theaterlatteda.com.)
Taking another look at four “Degrees” — the original Broadway production (in 1990), an about-to-open Broadway revival, the Oscar-nominated movie version from 1993 and the Guthrie Theater production in 2003 — is also a reminder that those worlds are interconnected. Some fun facts about those productions, which are separated by much fewer than six degrees:
1. Both Broadway productions of "Six Degrees" have starred women who were nominated for "best supporting actress" Emmys on the same TV show. Name the TV show.
"The West Wing." Stockard Channing was in the original, 1990 production, Allison Janney in the upcoming revival.
2. Sally Wingert stars in Latte Da's production. She was in the Guthrie's 2003 "Six Degrees," playing the supporting role of Kitty and understudying the lead role. She shares that dual distinction with what Broadway/TV star?
3. A running joke in "Six Degrees" is its characters' disdain for a popular musical that was on Broadway at the same time as the original "Six Degrees" and, coincidentally, has returned at the same time as the upcoming Broadway revival. Name it.
4. He's now a famous director but, in the 1993 "Six Degrees" film, he played a cranky college student.
That's J.J. Abrams, who went on to co-create "Lost" and direct "Super 8" and a couple "Star Trek" films.
5. The supporting cast of the original Broadway production of "Six Degrees" was an incubator for soon-to-be stars. Name one of three future Tony winners who played supporting roles.
Laura Linney, Courtney B. Vance, and John Cameron
6. Two future "Sex and the City" husbands appeared in the 1990 "Six Degrees" production on Broadway. Can you name them? (Hint: One's more of a Charlotte; one's more of a Miranda.)
Evan Handler and David Eigenberg
7. "Six Degrees" at Latte Da is the second show in a row Sally Wingert has worked on with actor JuCoby Johnson. Did you see the first?
"Whipping Man" at Minnesota Jewish Theater