Six Degrees of Separation

by John Guare

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 837

Trent Conway Trent Conway attended the same high school as the Kittredge children. While attending MIT, he met Paul in Boston. The two young men had a three-month affair. Trent told Paul all about the wealthy New York families he knew.

Elizabeth Elizabeth moved to New York from Utah with her boyfriend Rick. They want to become actors. They befriend Paul in the park and believe his story about being Flan's ostracized son. When Paul asks them for money, Elizabeth refuses but later learns of Rick's deceit. After Rick kills himself, Elizabeth presses charges of theft against Paul. She believes that he has taken everything from her.

FlanSee Flanders Kittredge.

Geoffrey Geoffrey is a liberal South African billionaire. He is an acquaintance of the Kittredges and is at their home when Paul arrives. Geoffrey is charmed by Paul and his supposed relationship to Sidney Poitier. He enjoys the evening so much that he gives Flan the money for the painting.

Flanders Kittredge Flan is an attractive, middle-aged art dealer. His business is the discreet buying and selling of expensive works of art. Flan got into the art business out of a sincere love for art, but by the play's opening, he has lost this idealism. The passion he once felt for art has been supplanted by the great sums of money it can earn for him. He recognizes that some of the people to whom he sells great works of art value them not for their beauty but for their social cachet. Like his wife, Flan is drawn to Paul, but unlike his wife, when he learns the truth, he detaches from Paul. Even though he acknowledges the service Paul provided in obtaining the two million dollars from Geoffrey, he continues to refer to Paul as a "crook'' and wants little to do with him.

Louisa Kittredge Louisa Kittredge (often referred to as Ouisa) is a rich, attractive, middle-aged woman. She lives with her husband in a posh Upper East Side apartment in Manhattan. As the play opens, Ouisa is characterized by superficial traits: she is a good hostess, a quick conversationalist, and a dramatic storyteller. However, she also is the character most affected by the meeting with Paul. The experience leads to growth and her spiritual rebirth.

Ouisa gives voice to the play's title, that there are "Six degrees of separation between us and everybody else on this planet." This linkage allows her to recognize the potential for a sincere connection between herself and Paul despite their vastly different backgrounds. Although in the end she does forsake him to the heartless bureaucracy of the police department, her meeting with Paul leads to an inner transformation and a new way of looking at the world around her. She no longer values anecdotal experience but yearns for true experience, which indicates her desire to forge deeper relationships with others She comes to realize that while her life has been filled with interesting experiences, it has no inherent meaning of its own.

Talbot Kittredge Tess is the Kittredges' rebellious daughter. She tracks down Trent Conway and finds out about his relationship with Paul.

OuisaSee Louisa Kittredge.

Paul Poitier-KittredgeSee Paul Poitier.

Paul Poitier Very little is known about Paul's true identity. He claims to be the son of Sidney Poitier as well as a Harvard classmate of the Kittredges' children. In reality, he became aware of the Kittredge children, and others in their social milieu, when he met a young man with whom they had attended high school. Paul used this young man to learn how to comport himself in...

(This entire section contains 837 words.)

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upper-class society and also to learn enough details to pass himself off as belonging in the Kittredges' world.

Though Paul is not really an actor's son, he is a good actor himself. He easily convinces the Kittredges of his false identity; and his affability is a crucial determinant in Geoffrey's decision to invest the money in the Cezanne painting. His articulate and intelligent conversation belies his background.

Paul is equally adept working himself into the good graces of Rick and Elizabeth, a young couple who have moved to the city from Utah to become actors. Paul's experience with the couple, and his seduction of Rick, teach him that his self-centered actions and lies can have devastating results on others. At Ouisa's urging, he turns himself into the police, but he maintains his hope of becoming a better man in the future—the man he pretended to be.

Rick Rick has moved to New York from Utah with his girlfriend Elizabeth. They want to become actors. The couple met Paul in the park and believe his story about being Flan's ostracized son. When Paul needs money, Rick secretly withdraws it from his and Elizabeth's account. Rick and Paul dance together at the Rainbow Room and then have sex in a hansom carriage in Central Park. Devastated by what he has done—betraying Elizabeth's confidence and having sex with a man—Rick commits suicide by jumping out a window.

TessSee Talbot Kittredge.




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