BWW Review: THE HUMANS is Eerily Relatable at Syracuse Stage
Stephen Karam's 2016 Tony Award-winning play The Humans is now engaging audiences at Syracuse Stage. Presented in association with Geva Theatre Center and directed by Mark Cuddy, this production of the uncannily relatable play is moving, emotional, and humorous.
Karam sheds light on a multi-generational Irish family dealing with tensions and struggles of everyday life. It's time for the Blake family's Thanksgiving get together. Erik Blake (Skip Greer), Dierdre Blake (Toni DiBuono) have traveled from Scranton with Erik's mother, "Momo" Blake (Susanne Marley) to celebrate the holiday with their grown daughters. This year, their youngest daughter Brigid (Regan Moro) and her boyfriend Richard Saad (Thamer Jendoubi) are hosting the dinner in their turn of the century ground floor/basement duplex apartment (beautifully brought to life by scenic designer Tim Mackabee) in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood. The Blake's other daughter Aimee (Madeline Lambert) is also in attendance.
As with most families, everyone in the Blake family is experience a variety of struggles whether it is money and health issues, job loss, the uncertainties associated with planning for retirement or finding a job, and caring for an aging family member. There's a lot of teasing and everyone can be outspoken, or get angry. However, all their emotions and interactions are out of love and concern and their deep connections and tight bonds are evident at every moment. This is no more apparent than when they sing traditional Irish song "The Parting Glass." The spunky - and at times snarky - interactions between the family members are often humorous for the audience, undoubtedly because most audience members can relate to the holiday meal conversations and disagreements. The relatability of this play is what makes it so interesting and engaging.
The Blake family are all haunted by their fears and anxieties - and the weird noises they hear in the nearly empty apartment (Brigid and Richard just moved in) often remind them of those fears. Things like a light bulb going out (lighting design is by Josh Epstein) or a thumping sound from the neighbor upstairs creates an eerie feeling at this holiday get together. At one point they wonder if there is something deep and sinister going on and uneasy tensions fill the space. The weird noises and other strange occurrences transform this family drama into something akin to a ghost thriller.
The cast members' chemistry with one another ensures this family drama is brought to life in a beautiful and natural way. Each actor delivers an incredible performance.
Skip Greer, as the father Erik Blake, is appropriately uneasy and tense from the start. His daughter's apartment and the ambient noises in and around it constantly reminds him of his personal problems and a recurring nightmare that eerily seems to be playing out in the apartment. Greer's impeccable body language and line delivery are some of the reasons his performance is so memorable.
Toni DiBuono delivers an engaging and emotional performance as the mother Deirdre Blake who often states her opinions in the form of little side comments. DiBuono's witty performance steals the spotlight because she lands every entertaining and relatable line.
Regan Moro plays Brigid Blake. Brigid is struggling to find a career. She works as a bartender and gets paid under the table and has faced constant rejection due to some not so good recommendation letters. Despite the job-related struggles Brigid is very excited to start a new life in this very cool apartment with its winding staircase, large window, and open space with her boyfriend Richard. Moro portrays the outspoken, health conscious, and spunky daughter with effortless energy. Her natural line delivery and overall portrayal of the character is incredibly believable. Her chemistry and connection with her fellow cast members is superb.
Madeline Lambert plays Aimee Blake who is struggling with health problems, heartbreak, and job loss - and she is captivating in the role. Lambert's body language and facial expressions are a standout. She fully embodies the tense and troubled character.
Thamer Jendoubi plays Richard Saad, Brigid's boyfriend who is from a wealthy family. He is a natural in the role. His character wants Brigid's family to like him, so he tries very hard to agree with and impress them. Jendoubi delivers a memorable performance as the odd man out.
Susanne Marley delivers an emotional and powerful performance as "Momo" Blake who suffers from dementia and thus rambles incoherently throughout.
The Humans at Syracuse Stage is an emotional, humorous, and relatable production. Most middle-class families can relate to the struggles and tensions that haunt this family even during festivities.
The familiar and relatable plot, humorous character interactions, and engaging performances makes this an enjoyable evening up until the final few minutes where the ending seems just out of place.
Running time: Approximately one and half hours with no intermission.
The Humans runs through May 12, 2019 at Syracuse Stage, 820 E. Genesee Street, Syracuse, New York. For tickets and information on this production and upcoming productions at Syracuse Stage, click here or call 315-443-3275.