The Humans (on Broadway)

Human sThe Humans (on Broadway)
written by Stephen Karam
directed by Joe Mantello
Helen Hayes Theatre
June 24, 2016
Production website

πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰ out of 5.

I saw this play in December of 2015 and I loved it and easily gave it πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰πŸ’‰. It is clearly a masterpiece of suspense and of allowing naturalism to slowly boil until it becomes a chilling piece of expressionism. I was worried that the play might suffer from in the transition from Roundabout’s smaller offstage place to the Helen Hayes theatre. It survived fine. I, of course, always think the show has a certain charm when it plays in the original space that gave the story birth. I did think on the night the we say it that the cast was a bit tired – – or perhaps a bit too comfortable with the story on stage. It may just be me but I sensed more β€œedge” the first time I saw the production.

Here is the review from the December viewing:

Let me get directly to the point. This play is brilliant. It makes perfect sense why this production is working its way to Broadway in the near future. This play is brilliant – oh, I said this already!
When I walked into the theatre I was a bit nervous. Although I sit down to find an interesting two floor apartment – – with all of its pots and pans, tables and chairs, sinks and plates – – I thought that I was in line for yet one more of those dysfunctional family plays gathered around the table with 90 minutes of cattiness and family angst. I thought that I would be able to predict the final moments in the show from watching the first few. I was wrong. I was so wrong.

In his play, Stephen Karam does simply an amazing in capturing a family gathering around the Thanksgiving table. The realistic details are just too numerous to mention, but here are some that caught my eye:

    • Upon the families arrival to their daughters new condo – – the first order of business is to get everyone a chance in the bathroom. And how true is that? After a long car ride – everyone’s time in bathroom needs must be addressed first.
    • The aging grandmother occupies all the energy of the family – How is she going to get to the ground floor? Who is going to take her to the bathroom? Do we take the time to feed her or do we medicate her and let her sleep on the couch?
    • The crazy in the family is all re-heated for the dinner. Everyone’s personal issues are not solved by this dinner. You sense that as the meal draws to a close, they will return to the very mess they had before the dinner. Thanksgiving dinners seldom solve anything. They merely give you the illusion of the past to safe off the reality of the present.
    • The family finds humor in all of the classic foibles of the familyΒ members that are NOT attending this meal. Β TheyΒ have been told over and over again and somehow always remain funny.
    • Failed weight loss is never funny on Thanksgiving. Β Cruelty is omnipresent. Β When offered a variety of desserts, the father says to his obviously overweight wive, β€œTake the one with all of the icing. Β That’s the one you want anyway.”

Every family has a tradition, usually tied to the holidays, that brings the family back to their beginnings and will likely be played out generation after generation. In this family, the tradition is to take a candy pig, wrap it in a velvet bag, and go around the table smashing the candy pig with a small hammer while announcing to the table all that they are grateful in the previous year. Then the family opens the velvet bag with the broken candy pig and everyone enjoys a piece of the peppermint. Everyone participates; everyone must participate! But – – what if gratitude cannot be found – or gratitude lives in the the distant past. What if the only energy at the table is the energy of a group of people growing old, feeling the age, and dreading where the next Thanksgiving will find them.

I am all so scattered and all over the place with this review. It was so much good stuff compressed into 90 minutes that my tongue and typing fingers are jumbled.

The most moving passage in the play comes from one of the characters that recites a story that they heard years ago: When monsters go to bed and monsters have nightmares – – do you know what they dream about? Do you know what wakes them up in the middle of the night – – Humans! Monsters have their nightmares about humans!


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