Design Porn on Stage: Theater Latte Da’s Six Degrees of Separation Showcases Local Modern Art and Interiors

Not since the Guthrie Theater’s production of Other Desert Cities back in 2013 has a stage set conjured such immediate lust—for the furniture and art, of course. We’re talking about Theater Latte Da’s new production of playwright John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation, playing through April 15 at the Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis.

Those curved beige sofas on teak plinths; that mid-century ice bucket; the clear molded-plastic chairs; the horizontal planes conjuring rooflines and soffits with vertical niches for abstract sculpture; minimalist structures for exhibiting paintings, photography and collage—all by Northeast Minneapolis artists: Tying this fictional New York apartment all together are curves and circles: in the lamp and soffit overhead, between the sofas, as a large stone coffee table and the rug underneath, in the armature for lighting on either side of the stage.

Six Degrees of Separation was inspired by the actions of real-life con artist David Hampton, who inserted himself with grace, wit and intelligence into the lives of several wealthy New Yorkers. The play focuses on his interactions with Flan Kittredge, a private art dealer, and his wife Ouisa. It also delves into the vagaries of human connection, race, class, and status—as the young, black interloper passes himself off as the son of Sidney Poitier.

The team behind the production’s amazing set design includes Kate Sutton-Johnson (associate director/scenic designer), who also designed the much-coveted modern bookcases used in Le Switch at the Jungle Theater last year. She was the recipient of the 2007 Ivey Award for Emerging Artist and the 2016 Ivey Award for Set Design, and is a long-time collaborator with the design department at the Science Museum of Minnesota.

Before, during, and after attending Six Degrees of Separation, it was difficult not yearn for the simple luxury the set conveyed. Not to mention the art. A large “Kandinsky” takes center stage, its bright clean overlapping circles switched out at the end of the play for a messier abstraction in which shapes—just like lives and emotions—had less defined edges with colors that merged into one another. Meanwhile, Caitlin Karolczak’s cameo-style portraits watched the proceedings from behind one of the sofas.

An elongated portrait by Nicholas Harper, whose Rogue Buddha gallery is next door to the Ritz, was also part of the set, as was a vivid color abstraction by Andy Frye, a kinetic nebula by Bob Zehrer, and atmospheric photography by Sarah Sampedro. There is also work by Franco Colavecchia, Javier Matos, Janice Essick, and Malcom Myers—all of whom work in the Twin Cities.

Not only the play’s actors and musicians inhabit the marvelous set, but so do theatergoers during the 90-plus-minute production. For art lovers and aficionados of modern décor alike, the play’s set is an added, surprising and welcome bonus.

 

 

 

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by Camille LeFevre

photos by Dan Norman

 

 

 

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