“The Humans” Visit Orpheum Theatre
Photo by Erica Loeks
We’ve all been to awkward family get-togethers. Or perhaps it wasn’t so much “awkward” as it was complicated and hectic in an “I-cannot-believe-I’m-related-to-these-people” kind of way. “The Humans,” written by Stephen Karam and recipient of four Tony Awards including Best Play, perfectly embodies this experience with a family Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the dad-jokes, excessive drinking and “So when are you two going to get married?” question.
“The Humans” takes place in the new but rickety Manhattan apartment of overworked millennial Brigid Blake (Daisey Eagan) and her older boyfriend Richard Saad (Luis Vega), and for Thanksgiving they invite Brigid’s whole family from Philadelphia, which consists of her overbearing mother (Pamela Reed), loud and opinionated father (Richard Thomas), college-aged and heartbroken sister (Therese Plaehn), and her grandmother (Lauren Klein), whose sweet disposition makes her Alzheimer’s all the more painful for her family.
Despite Richard’s endearing hospitality and Brigid’s excitement to host Thanksgiving, the evening does not go as smoothly as planned. Think of everything that could possibly create conflict at one of your family get-togethers, like financial stress, physical and mental illness, religion, unemployment, career choices, disagreement over major life decisions—“The Humans” touches on all of them while still managing to maintain a highly comedic tone throughout the play. Between the dual conversations (one taking place on the main floor of the apartment and the other taking place in the basement kitchen), the unexplained crashes from Brigid and Richard’s upstairs neighbor, and Brigid’s father’s never-ending stream of humorous, often tactless comments, attendees have plenty to keep them on their toes.
But what begins as familial banter, sarcastic conversations and surface-level disagreements between characters (especially between Brigid, her mother and her father) becomes a very real, messy and raw representation of family life. As characters begin to share more personal information throughout the play, it becomes heartbreakingly clear that much like every human person has a trial to bear or a wound that needs healing, so too, does every Blake family member.
Although the play could be considered a social commentary on generational differences or immediate family dynamics, the play is more of a moving, universal call to action for families to be more compassionate to the people that love them most. In the words of Mother Teresa, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
And unconditional family love, as Erik Blake says in one of his Thanksgiving Day toasts, is something to be grateful for.