Stephen Karam’s “The Humans”

 

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Photo: Joan Marcus

 

By: Sandi Durell

 

Looking at the two-tiered setting (David Zinn) of a somewhat dilapidated, sparsely furnished apartment with spiral staircase, the immediate impression might be ‘boy, somebody scored some nice NYC digs.” But that’s only until you look closer to see it’s really a rundown compromise with exposed pipes that happens to be an ill-lit basement in Chinatown. However, when you’re a young couple, in love, everything looks good, even the occasional roaches and flickering light bulbs. More often than not, there are loud noises coming from above and beyond.

This is the apartment that aspiring musician/bartender Brigid (a crackerjack Sarah Steele) shares with her boyfriend Richard (Arian Moayed) working on a degree in social work, at least until his trust fund comes due once he reaches 40.

This sad but funny play gathers a somewhat dysfunctional middle-class family together at Thanksgiving, as Mom, Dad and Granny Momo (Lauren Klein), in a wheelchair and suffering from dementia, travel to the depths of the basement from Scranton, Pa. to join Brigid’s lesbian-lawyer sister Aimee (Cassie Beck), who recently split with her partner and has now been let go by her firm due to ulcerative colitis.

With Jayne Houdyshell as Deidre, Erik’s (Reed Birney) seemingly upbeat wife, neuroses exacerbates the growing feeling of depression and loneliness that swells listening to the conversation (all sprinkled with touching humor and clever lines) about the attack of 9/11, Hurricane Sandy and, more seriously, to life’s disappointments and daily fears peppered with great insight into the intertwined family relationships of emotions layed bare.

Erik is a man who doesn’t mince words but his special non-verbal bond to his family is ever present as he swigs one beer after another, acting strangely, while Deidre attempts to keep things light-hearted, her anger just beneath the surface, as Brigid spouts off. Erik noticeably bristles when he hears about Richard’s trust fund realizing that the years he’s worked as a facilities manager at a school hasn’t afforded the family much in the way of luxury but, more to the point, he soon reveals that he’s lost his job, and more. Momo has an outburst of screaming and screeching that could wake the dead.

The revelations that come to pass within the 90 minutes of this natural comedy-drama, skillfully directed by Joe Mantello, touch our lives daily. Stephen Karam (Sons of the Prophet) possesses a sensitivity that captures all our emotions, placing each of us into that one category we all share – Humans.

The Humans will be transferring to Broadway this spring with this exceptional cast in tact.

 

Currently playing at the Laura Pels Theater thru December 27th (www.roundabouttheatre.org ) 111 West 46 St. NYC 212 719-1300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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