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Six Degrees of Separation
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Since its inception in 1974, L.A. Theatre Works, a nonprofit radio production company, has built up a sizable catalogue of ensemble-cast productions in which major name actors (including the likes of Richard Dreyfuss, Kelsey Grammer and Jacqueline Bisset) perform classic and contemporary plays. Typical is this famous Guare work, which stars Alan Alda, Swoosie Kurtz and Chuma Hunter-Gault and is directed by Jay Sandrich. Though on tape, the production still sounds more like theater than anything else: it's all in the timing. Recorded before a live audience, in the open-miked fidelity one can sense the ambient space surrounding the actors, the charge of excitement sparking between them. The opening scene, with its New York City society dinner party, sets the overall tone of clever talkiness (here, Alda and Kurtz especially shine). When a young African-American stranger arrives at the door, claiming to be the son of actor Sidney Poitier, the plot takes some wonderfully unexpected turns. As with other L.A. Theatre Works programs, this is especially well suited for would-be actors, as the tape draws attention to the mechanics of Guare's play itselfÄand to the role played by a skilled cast in animating that material. Recommended for libraries and general audiences alike. (July) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

This new effort is an excellent production of Guare's famous play. When a young man enters the Fifth Avenue home of Flanders and Ouisa Kittredge claiming to be a friend of their children and son of actor Sidney Poitier, the couple is charmed by his manners, wit, and intelligence. When the Kittredges discover that "Paul" isn't all he claims to be, they find themselves stuck between embarrassment and fascination. Alan Alda and Swoosie Kurtz portray the Kittredges convincingly, with Kurtz's performance particularly effective, as she captures Ouisa's empathy and simultaneous desire not to get too involved with an obviously disturbed person. Chuma Hunter-Gault sensitively portrays the con man who manages to change the Kittredges' lives irrevocably. A few moments in which it becomes difficult to distinguish among characters' voices are all that mar a fine production. This will be welcome to students, lovers of the theater, and even more traditional fans of audiobooks. Recommended.--Adrienne Furness, Genesee Community Coll., Batavia, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

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