Friday, July 31, 2009

Six Degrees of Separation

“I read somewhere that everybody on this planet is separated by only six other people. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone else on this planet. The President of the United States, a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names. I find that extremely comforting, that we're so close, but I also find it like Chinese water torture that we're so close because you have to find the right six people to make the connection. It's not just big names—it's anyone. A native in a rain forest, a Tierra del Fuegan, an Eskimo. I am bound—you are 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 claims to be, or perhaps is, although I doubt it. How everyone is a new door, opening into other worlds.”

That profound thought was the piece de resistance from the John Guare play Six Degrees of Separation that we watched yesterday evening. The play opened to Broadway in the year 1990 and went on to become an award winning work. Version One Dot Oh! (VODO) premiered its production of the play in Bangalore this week.

It had been over a month that I had stepped inside Rangashankara and watched a good play. The last was Sonata, a remarkable play that I haven’t written about yet. Maybe I will in one of the next few posts. So that fact along with the facts that I had been fascinated by the concept of Six Degrees of Separation when I read about it first in ‘Who Will Cry When You Die’, that the play’s synopsis was very inviting given that I have met some of my most wonderful friends just by virtue of serendipity and it has been the source of some of the most enriching and enjoyable conversations, that the play had got rave reviews in the New York Times and Washington Post…all that made it essential for us to go watch it.

So daring the rains and some chaotic traffic in South Bangalore (ok we weren’t exactly going to war but you know how South Bangalore is when it rains), we all managed to reach Rangashankara well ahead in time to catch a nice chat in the charming RS Café over tea and coffee as it drizzled outside. I just love sitting on those wooden benches and anticipate what the play will bring before entering the auditorium or ruminate over what it was all about and see the cast descend into the same space after the play.

Here is the synopsis of the play from VODO:

‘In a typical upper middle class household on the East Side of Manhattan, the Kittredges are busy entertaining an old friend of theirs ("A friend from South Africa!") who they hope will lend them the funds for a major art deal. Just as the three set out for dinner, they have a surprise visitor - a young black man, who has been stabbed and is in dire need of some first aid.

The play, set to the tune of a fine cocktail conversation, pieces together events that happened around this one night. Light, farcical and yet deeply insightful, John Guare whisks us through several worlds and moods at breathtaking speed. With every narration the characters slice through another layer of invisible wall, another degree if you will, to get closer to solving some nagging mysteries around the young man.’

The play was good. The actors did their part, at least it looked like it. It was liberally sprinkled with humorous bits that the actors pulled off well. And every now and then, one was served some food for thought as the play progressed, scene after scene. The only thing is that the concept of ‘Six Degrees of Separation’ did not really hit me that hard. I did not experience an epiphany when it comes to the core concept of that play. In fact, in my opinion it proved the opposite by letting the characters find the wrong degree of separation, the wrong link that they thought could lead them to Sidney Poitier. So on that count the play disappointed a little. Yet, I left the auditorium with a nice feeling…I really liked the play as a standalone and there were many bits from it that still have me thinking. Especially the bit about Imagination based on The Catcher In The Rye –

“The imagination has moved out of the realm of being our link, our most personal link, with our inner lives and the world outside that world, this world we share. What is schizophrenia but a horrifying state where what's in here doesn't match what's out there?”

So all in all a good play that was enacted well. And it was made better by splendid company and a conversation that continued into dinner. It’s life largesse – the people, the places, the art, the life, everything it has bestowed upon me – and it makes me grateful every single day that I am who I am and where I am. Yesterday evening adds another to the list of being thankful for.

8 Thinkers Pondered:

Vijay Kumar Yenne said...

Appreciate your feedback on our play. We would always like to stay connected to the audience, Hope to see you write on how your felt about our future plays as well.

Vijay Kumar Yenne
TEAM Version One Dot Oh!

Smita said...

Lucky You!!!

I have been itching to catch a play. Being in Mumbai I have an access to so many events but distances are such that...sigh!!!!

One day may be!!!

eye-in-sty-in said...


Anupama said...

Hi Vijay Kumar,

Thank you so much for the comment. We really enjoyed the play and would definitely love to see more of VODO. Looking forward to the next performance.

Hey Smita!

Distances are always such a pain. I am lucky to be staying at walking distance from Rangashankara...for my friends yesterday it was another story altogether travelling across town...but they were good sports :) ...thanks for the comment...

Hey Spike!

What in my post brings that smile to your face - the concept of Six Degrees of Separation (I am quite taken by it) or life's largesse? Thanks for the comment, it's really nice to see your smile on the blog :)

Vibhushan said...

'Six degrees of separation' is an interesting concept. Possibility that I am in a way connected to an Eskimo or President of USA by not more than 6 layers is quite thrilling. And as I go to sleep with this exciting thought, I wonder how amazing it would be if this meant that we just not simply know these persons through 6 links in between, but also understand them. Is there anything like 'N degrees of understanding'? How wonderful and comforting it would be to know that statistically there certainly exists someone out there in remote corner of world who would understand you for sure.
May be animals have are better at this. All animals of one species - whichever forests they are from - would generally understand the other fellow of same specie. May be at times lack of intelligence and pure emotions is a good thing.
Thanks for these interesting thoughts your post have given me. :)

Eveline said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I guess at the end of it all, it's the experiences you take back from it that matters.

If you do get a chance you must watch a play directed by Ajay Krishnan. He had presented 'Mashed Bananas' last year or the year before that. I'm sure you would have loved it. One of those plays that leaves you loving it and thinking about it at days on end.

Thanks for the heads up about Soulmate's performance. I will be there at B Flat! Wouldn't miss it for anything! See ya there :)

manvi said...

Great post Anupama.. it took me somewhere else..check my blog inspired by your post :)

Anupama said...

Hey Vibhushan,

Loved the thought about animals and understanding...I think human beings might be the only species wherein every individual is so is quite hard to say that we understand all other humans being human ourselves (barring basic things like hunger, pain etc.) simply because we can't. And why not (is it because it is complicated or because we lack empathy) is an interesting thought to ponder upon. Thanks for the comment...

Hey Eve!

I've heard about the play...Butter and Mashed Bananas I think, isn't it? Had always wanted to watch it but now that you recommend it I will make it a point to catch it the next time it comes to RS!

And it would be great to catch up at B Flat. Will keep you posted about my plan :)

Hey Manvi!

I am flattered and thanks a whole lot is all I can say :)