An excellent ensemble cast of six brings to life this sporadically amusing and mostly depressing play by Stephen Karam set in downtown New York during the Thanksgiving festivities of the Blake family where strange things begin to take place in the newly moved in basement duplex apartment of youngest daughter Brigid (Sarah Steele) and her live in beau Richard Saad (Arian Moayed) thirty eight year old student awaiting his trust fund which becomes available when he reaches 40 – which will mostly go to repay his student loans. He’s the cook.
It’s a spacious, mostly void of furniture apartment on two levels designed by David Zinn – although those sitting in the first few rows of the orchestra might leave the theatre with a stiff neck. Others might leave with a depressing headache.
They all have problems. Physical ailments. Money. Jobs. There isn’t a problem it seems that Mr. Karam doesn’t touch upon. He puts a lot on his plate besides turkey for us to digest in this family gathering that has brought Erik Blake (Reed Birney) and his wife Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) and his mom Momo (Lauren Klein) wheelchair bound and suffering from dementia to New York from Scranton Pennsylvania.
Brigid’s sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) is suffering from a disease that can lead to cancer, has broken up with her girlfriend and lost her job. During the course of this intermission-less saga you will find out lots more about what makes the Blake family tick, tick boom!
They may have a problem speaking about important things with each other but wine always loosens the tongue. And Mr. Karam’s dialogue is natural and enlightening.
However he adds mysterious (perhaps symbolic) things that bewilder. Extremely loud noises from an upstairs neighbor – a seventy year old Chinese lady. What could she be doing to cause such a racket? And then there are the lights that suddenly go out resulting in a Steven Spielberg flashlight sequence from director Joe Mantello as they chase a cockroach as big as a mouse. And then there is the question of cell phone reception. Dad has to nearly lean out the window while Aimee has no problem whatsoever. Then there are the dreams, rather nightmares.
For those of you having to deal with someone suffering from dementia watching this production will prove difficult. Lauren Klein does an outstanding job – although it is painful and heart wrenching to watch.
Joe Mantello is the master of misdirection as he manages our focus elsewhere while Momo somehow gets herself up off the sofa and into the kitchen without her wheelchair…
THE HUMANS runs through December 27th at the Laura Pels and will be transferring to Broadway next year.
Photos: Joan Marcus
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