Feb 2nd, 2016
Please note this performance of The Humans occurred during the show's previews, and changes to the show may be made ahead of its official opening night.
Target Audience: Theatre-goers who enjoy having to read between the lines for deeper meaning and self reflection will enjoy discussing this play, over a chai latte and quinoa cookie.
Feel-o-meter: A bit disappointed by the delivery but intrigued with the themes.
Standout Actor: Jayne Houdyshell who plays Deidre Blake was the glue for this performance.
Verdict: Like most humans in life I would give it a second chance...
Every now and then you find yourself sitting in an auditorium feeling unmoved and restless. Unfortunately, I felt a huge disconnect from The Humans. The audience laughed on cue to the jokes about living in minuscule New York apartments, while of course the people visiting New York laughed as well, as this is one of the reasons out-of-towners always cite for never wanting to live here! The play immediately sets out the concept that one cannot be happy or comfortable without money, and that on the quest to make money, sacrifices must be made. As the parents observe their daughter's new living situation with her boyfriend, the generational gap between them offers a few laughs. They have brought along Momo the grandmother who is mute for most of the play and represents a generation passing by.
I was intrigued to see this young caucasian couple moving into Chinatown and hoped there'd be more commentary connected to the gentrification that occurs in these new 'up-and-coming neighborhoods', in which a community has survived just fine without the influx of artists and New York newbies. There seems to be a lot of emphasis placed on the fact that they live in this banged up apartment with a noisy neighbor upstairs, and as the family unravels so too does the building. One could dissect the meaning behind the restroom which has no window, the flickering lights, the sound of a laundry room and living in a basement apartment as an esoteric look at life but it would just be too indulgent. I couldn't place my finger on whether the cast was preempting the actions and effects of the apartment or if their performances felt withdrawn. Either way I had to remember they are in previews.
The young couple (played by Sarah Steele and Arian Moayed) are living out their passions, making sacrifices and eating quinoa. Their out-of-town parents (Jayne Houdyshell and Erik Blake) have reservations, not about the quinoa but them living together before marriage. We soon realize that despite their differences in age, the parents are starting over financially as well, projecting their fears and living vicariously through their daughters.
As the family prepares for a Thanksgiving dinner, served on paper plates, we understand that family is everything. The family dynamics are well studied by playwright Stephen Karam, with the eldest daughter taking on the burden of becoming the next caretaker, her emotional trauma heightened by a bowel dysfunction, while the younger one who has felt free as a bird has to realize she must fend for herself as she settles into her new nest. With the dying grandmother present we appreciate that life is a ticking clock and should be lived to the fullest. Mistakes will happen and life goes on. We dream, we will feel physical and emotional pain and yet if we choose, life still goes on. No matter your age the choices you make have consequence, and life goes on, which is how the 95 minutes felt - it went on and on, without intermission.
The Humans highlights the ongoing issues of depression, indulgence, aging and the distressing notion that America's next generation is flooded with debt before they even begin, which begs the question how will the next generation take care of themselves, and it reminds us to take care of each other.
Towards the end of the play I could hear people screaming and applauding outside for Bruce Willis and Laurie Metcalf who are currently in Misery across the street, a play I would see twice and highly recommended in my review. It did make me wonder, as the production of The Humans moves into its new home at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway, it brings along a mound of rave reviews from its Off-Broadway run, so perhaps they still have a few boxes to unpack before the official opening on February 18th.
Tuesday February 2nd, 2016
Helen Hayes Theatre, New York City
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View our show pages for more information about The Humans, Gerald Schoenfeld Theater