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film

Six Degrees of Separation

There is something morally anemic about Six Degrees of Separation. On Broadway, where it ran like a Restoration comedy on poppers, the messier social issues of John Guare’s play were folded in on themselves—as if a perfect sheet of dough covered everything with a creamy ubiquitousness. That the scary plight of the hustling black antihero is left willfully unresolved in order to serve up an epiphany of conscience to its careless white heroine caused nary a whisper of discontent.

The play’s premise concerns a young man who claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier in order to insinuate himself into an affluent urban household, which, as a result of his intrusion, is politely but irrevocably shattered. The story is true in its essentials—it was reported with great gusto by the New York Times hack in the mid ’80s—and there was never any doubt that the young man was guilty of misrepresentation and

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