The Humans by playwright Stephen Karam, offers a funny, sad and blisteringly realistic portrait of American family drama, at a thanksgiving meal. The Humans was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play.
Blake family, father Erick (Tim Kniffin), mother Deirdre (Marie Shell), daughter Brigid (Madeline Rouverol), daughter Aimee (Lyndsy Kail), Brigid’s live-in lover, Richard (George Psarras) and Momo, (Jessica Powell) have gathered for the meal at Richard and Brigid’s run down apartment in Manhatten, New York. These are the people we know; they are our neighbors, friends; indeed they are us.
Like many families, the Blakes have strong bonds and deep resentments. At times, they differ and argue over what appears to be inconsequential stuff. There are generational differences. Erick and Deirdre want the best for their two daughters but their best is not the same as what their daughters desire. At times, subtly and at times overtly the parents show their disapproval of Brigid’s choice of apartment and her decision to co-habit with her partner, without a marriage. Blake parents agonize over their daughter Aimee’s apparent anxiety, her major bowel disorder and her apparent losses in life. While Richard tries hard to get approval from Aimee’s family and convey to them that he has cleaned up his life, it is not easy to come by. Jessica Powell’s acting as momo suffering from dementia, is absolutely amazing and realistic.
David Zinn’s fascinating two-tiered set with a spiral staircase connecting the floors enables the family drama and action to move between upstairs and downstairs, just like the ebb and flow of their emotions. Kudos to director Tony Kelly and to the scenic team including Guilio Perrone and Michael Truman Cavanaugh for this insightful show.
This family drama is a penetrating portrayal of psychological unease. And yet, even as imperfect individuals and imperfect families travel through uncertainties and challenges, it’s the same ties that create the discomfort that also give hope for the future.
The Humans will be running at San Jose Stage Theater in San Jose, CA till December 15, 2019. For tickets, contact www.thestage.org .