Lee's Comments on Six Degrees of Separation

last revised 1/25/08


I really love this play.  I love to read it, and I love to see it, though the key thing in the DVD version is the way they have the protagonists talking to their friends as opposed to talking to us, the audience (perhaps that was too postmodern for the film makers; but the idea of everything being an amusing anecdote is actually enhanced by this change in the DVD version).  Another thing I love about the DVD version is how Stockard Channing, Ouisa, gives such an emotive performance that she actually becomes the central character, which isn't as impactful when reading the play.

What if I were to plot this out using Naked Playwriting's "Event Grid," or what I'm also calling a "Freytag's Triangle Grid" from ch. 3 p. 75?

EVENT I think Paul's sudden intrusion in to the evening with Geoffrey is the event that really starts the causal chain, even though it is retold to us (or, as in the DVD, to friends at a wedding) after the fact.  But could it be when Trent is lonely and picks up a hustler who later becomes Paul?  Should we look at "event" chronologically?


Is it obvious?  Paul is the antagonist, and Ouisa and Flan are the protagonists?  Certainly Flan becomes an antagonist at the end...
INCITING INCIDENT Does the deeper conflict come when the Kitterdges find out Paul has been playing his con with other people?  Or might it actually be Paul's beautiful first speech about imagination that causes a deeper conflict (especially in Ouisa)?  Or is it a number of things?  You tell me...
MAJOR DECISION Is this when the protagonist gets active by going to the cops?  Or by going to their children?  When they want to find out how Paul knows so much about them?
MDQ--MAJOR DRAMATIC QUESTION I think, again, this foregrounding of central themes is multifaceted.  Is it the first speech on imagination?  Is it the way upper class twits make everything into amusing stories because they have such empty lives they long for any break in the routine (and to be in the movie version of Cats)?  Or is it Paul's second speech on the imagination (p. 37), that in the DVD version is only privy to Ouisa (thus I see the movie letting her be more central)?  Is it when Ouisa talks about six degrees and connectedness (p. 45)?  What is the central theme of this play?




It seems that each time the upper class characters (protagonists?) think they know what happened, or what is happening, they find out new information that makes them have to ask more and more questions.  But at what specific points do the stakes get higher and higher?  You tell me...
DARK MOMENT Is this one obvious?  When the Utah boy, Rick, kills himself?  Or could it be when Ouisa can't find Paul in the prison system?  Or maybe it's when she and Flan go to the theater to gently hand Paul over to the police, and find out that he's already arrested?  In the DVD, they actually see him being put in the squad car (thus they could have been that much closer to being able to stay in touch)...
ENLIGHTENMENT Who really is the antagonist at this point that the protagonist must learn how to defeat?  Flan?  Loneliness and disconnect?  Ouisa seems to be the one getting enlightened, but at what point?  Is it when she says, "I will not turn him in to an anecdote" (p. 61)?  Or is it when she asks, "How do we keep the experience" (p. 62)?  Or is it when she tells Flan that they're a "terrible match"?

Of course in the movie Ouisa has her outbreak of enlightening statements during a dinner party, and she starts to cry, then storms out.  Does this enhance the energy of her enlightenment?  Or is it just Hollywood drama?

CLIMAX Does the post-enlightenment pace accelerate or decelerate?  In the play, Ouisa simply tells us that time passes.  They hear about a young man committing suicide in prison.  They don't know if it is Paul.  They are just sitting there reading in their apartment.  Nothing has changed, in a way, except Ouisa's sense of loss.  Are the MDQ's answered here?

In the movie, however, we get a different ending.  Energy accelerates because Ouisa walks away from Flan--she seems to physically, and perhaps forever, leave him.

CATHARSIS Freudian release?  But for whom?  In the play, is it when Ouisa remembers all the colors of the Sistine Chapel?  But the director's note says she says this with a sense of loss. Could it have been when someone who could have been Paul kills himself?  Does that give the audience a sense of release (he just can't live without connection, without Ouisa)? 

In the movie, the catharsis may be move obvious--or is it?  Ouisa walks and walks, and she sees the colors around her, and she smiles, and she remembers the Sistine Chapel, and she walks almost peppily.  A happy ending?  Does this answer more MDQ's?


And what if I were to plot Six Degrees out using Alternative Scriptwriting's Three Act Restorative structure?  And which grid do I prefer?