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Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

“Well, Indeed.” It’s almost all one can say at that crucial moment in the Broadway revival of John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation.  That line, spoken by Allison Janney (West Wing, Broadway’s 9 to 5), as the well -off Ouisa, breaks the hanging silence and sense of wonder. Ouisa is the wife of the successful art dealer, Flan, played with precision and expertise by the amazing John Benjamin Hickey (The Normal Heart, Dada Woof Papa Hot). She, nor anyone in the room, can think of nothing else to say.  It is spoken brilliantly by Janney with a wondrous excitement after a breathtaking lecture on a stolen thesis centered around the book, ‘Catcher in the Rye‘. But the speech is also about so much more as soliloquiad by the equally wondrous Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Roundabout’s Suicide, Incorporated). Hawkins is Paul, the young black man that flies his way into the home of these two liberals on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with a stab wound to his abdomen, a story about a mugging, and a few familiar names dropped immediately to gain entrance. This all happens quickly and with a great deal of surprise on a very important night. Elephants are in the room, figuratively speaking, in the guise of the South African guest, Geoffrey, portrayed by the exquisite Michael Siberry (MTC’s An Enemy of the People).  Deals are trying to be made, slyly and casually, but the real sales deal that is being orchestrated is by Paul, unbeknownst to all.

Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

As directed by Trip Cullman (YenSignificant Other), Paul weaves a story that enwraps these intelligent upper east side liberals because it drips with shadows and elements of privilege, intimacy, familiarity, and an opportunity for these privileged parents to prove their own liberalism and ideals against racism, paranoia, and stereotypes.  They desperately want to engage this young man, bring him into their outstretched caring arms, in an effort to quiet the guilt and shame of white privilege and also, layered on top, is a strong desire to believe his stories about their own children. Children that are as estranged and distance from them as this young man is engaged and in need of their care.

Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey
What happens next is legendary. The play, written by John Guare (The House of Blue Leaves) was first produced at the Lincoln Center Theater before transferring to Broadway starring the magnificent Stockard Channing, along with John Cunningham, and James McDaniel (later in the Broadway transfer, Paul was played by Courtney B. Vance). But I only have knowledge of the 1993 movie with Channing, the glorious Donald Sutherland, and a very young Will Smith. So part of me was surprised by the more avant-garde set that greeted me at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, beautifully crafted and appointed by the scenic designer, Mark Wendland (Heisenberg, If/Then), costumes by Clint Ramos (EclipsedIn Transit); lighting, Ben Stanton (Deaf West’s Spring AwakeningFun Home); sound, Darron L. West; and projection design: Lucy MacKinnon (Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, MCC’s Yen). I expected a more naturalistic set of an Upper East Side living room, not the bold colored stylized space before me. I realized, at that moment, that I had no real idea or memory where this play was heading, except for the one simple image of a wealthy couple’s luxurious apartment that I had retained. This play is so much more than that. In so many ways. And so is Janney, who gives a performance worthy of comparison to Channing, and worthy of all the nominations she will most likely get over the next few weeks.
 Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

Hanging over the space is the metaphorically rich two sided painting that will be used by Paul to ensnare them. As the stories get told, and the engagement crystalizes, the layered and rich play spirals forward. Two sides to all stories, remember. But then, shockingly, a hustler (energetically played by a beautifully sculptured James Cusati-Moyer making his Broadway debut) brings it all crashing down. This shockwave ushers in doubt, confusion, and some other well-heeled parents and friends of the family. Kitty and Larkin, played to perfection by Lisa Emery (Casa Valentina) and Michael Countryman (Wit) rush in with a surprising story of their own to tell. Followed shortly by another tale from another parent, Dr. Fine, hilariously portrayed by Ned Eisenberg (Rocky). Something has to be done, they say, but what? And really, Cats??

Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

And then in flops the children, a well educated but angry gang of disenfranchised young adults, disengaged from the parents and embarrassed at every turn by them. The group, played with an exaggerated sense of frustration and disgust by a strong company of young actors, Colby Minifie (Long Day’s Journey into Night) as Tess, Keenan Jolliff (Rebel in the Rye) as Woody, Ned Riseley (Broadway debut) as Ben, and Cody Kostro (Dead Poets Society) as Doug, all have their moments when they could truly shine, but the clownish quality they are directed to take does them no favors. That stance keeps them at about the same arms length from us as they are from their parents. It’s a shame, because the writing gives them plenty of options to be the disgruntled young adults, embarrassed and pissed with their parents, while still giving us real humans. Instead they give us over exaggerated grunts and shouts, that are funny but not centered. Once the fireball Tess meets with former classmate and outsider, Trent, played with a nervous intensity by Chris Perfetti (Signature’s Everybody), she finally calms down a bit, lowering the volume, and in doing so, gives us the able to reach her and connect to her repressed desire  to be noticed. The phone call to her parents speaks volumes about the deep divide that separates all the children from their caring, rich, but confused parents. “I’m going to utterly destroy my life because it is the only way to hurt you.” Or be seen by you.

Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

With a dramatic turn of events, a young trusting couple, Rick, portrayed by Peter Mark Kendall (The Rose Tattoo) and his sweet girlfriend, Elizabeth, achingly played by Sarah Mezzanotte (The Wolves), revolve into the orbit of Paul, and from this moment moving forward, the play could have used a slowed down approach. The serious turn of events requires a breath and a pause, but it felt like the director kept the action barreling forward. It spirals forward like a car skidding towards a snowbank.  Pump the breaks a bit, and don’t let go of the wheel, or you’ll loose control and surely crash.

Six Degrees of Separation, Allison Janney, John Benjamin Hickey

It doesn’t crash, but some moments of deep engagement might have been misplaced. It does retain its intimacy though. Throughout. This play, which in my memory existed as a three or four person drama turns out to have one huge cast.  I was shocked as more and more people arrived on stage, telling me that my memory of the film had failed me.  But it also doesn’t surprise me either, looking back. Based on a true story told to Guare of a con man and robber who managed to convince a number of well-off people in the 1980s that he was the son of actor Sidney Poitier.  In a way, this is really just an intimate story of three souls crashing together in a crazy messed up world.  Janney is particularly magnificent as the wife taken in by a young man’s unconscious desire to be seen and held.  She is devastatingly on point in the phone call scene with both her daughter and Paul. Her maternal instincts of being needed and wanted by this young man, in a way that her own children and her husband don’t utilize her, is ignited. It’s tender and powerful.  As she states, “I am bound to everyone on this planet by a trail of six people. It’s a profound thought. How Paul found us. How to find the man whose son he pretends to be. Or perhaps is his son, although I doubt it. How every person is a new door, opening up into other worlds. Six degrees of separation between me and everyone else on this planet. But to find the right six people.”  It makes us feel much more connected to her than six degrees.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Ken Fallin’s Broadway: A Dolls House: Arian Moayed and Jessica Chastain



I went with T2C’s editor to A Dolls House, which inspired this caricature. You can read Suzanna’s review of the show here.

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T2C Sends Our Prayers to Andrew Lloyd Webber and Lea Michele



Saturday, March 25, 2023

 A Statement From Andrew Lloyd Webber

 I am shattered to have to announce that my beloved elder son Nick died a few hours ago in Basingstoke Hospital. His whole family is gathered together and we are all totally bereft. 

 Thank you for all your thoughts during this difficult time.

The 75-year-old Oscar-winning composer son Nicholas followed in his father’s footsteps and was a successful composer in his own right, having written Fat Friends The Musical. He was married to musician Polly Wiltshire, who appeared on the soundtrack of his father’s 2019 movie Cats.

During his career, Nicholas also scored music for an adaption of The Little Prince as well as composing numerous TV and film scores, including for the BBC1 drama Loves, Lies, and Records.

Nicholas previously spoke about making his own way in the theatre world away from his famous family name in a 2011 unearthed interview.

He said he wanted to be ‘judged on his own merits’ so dropped his surname when working to see what the reaction would be.

Our hearts and prayers go out to his family.

Also on Saturday Lea Michele updated her fans on the status of her two-year-old’s health via her Instagram  after he was hospitalized earlier this week.  Her son Ever was in the hospital, but is now out due to a ‘scary health issue. She posted a picture backstage in her dressing room ahead of her Broadway performance in Funny Girl. Lea had been out to focus on her family.

“I just wanted to say thank you to everyone for just so much love and support this week. I really really appreciated it”.

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Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.



Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.

Ben Platt Photo By Joan Marcus

The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. 

Erin Rose Doyle, Photo by Joan Marcus

The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.

Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.

Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox Photo By Joan Marcus

The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony  (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.

Alex Joseph Grayson Photo by Joan Marcus

Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.

Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McMillan Photo By Joan Marcus

In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.

Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.

Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.

Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.

Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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