BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Cadillac Palace Theatre

BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Cadillac Palace TheatreAs I left the theatre on opening night of Stephen Karem's Tony Award-winning play, THE HUMANS, I heard a patron say, "Wow, that reminded me of my own family holidays."

A big part of this play's appeal is its relatable and honest writing that strikes a chord with many of us. It reminds us that family dynamics can influence how we see and handle the world. And here, The Blakes, have their way of skillfully functioning together - most of the time.

Set in the Manhattan apartment of Brigid Blake (Tony Award winner, Daisy Eagan) and her fiancé Richard Saad (Luis Vega) the play revolves around the before, during, and after events of the Blake family Thanksgiving dinner. From the opening scene, we are witness to parents concerned about their daughters' safety, happiness, and financial security. This is set against the circumstances impacting each member of the family.

Erik Blake, (Emmy Award winner, Richard Thomas) is the father trying to put on a brave front while dealing with a secret he would later reveal to his daughters. Dierdre Blake, (Pamela Reed) a devout Catholic, yet a liberal-minded mother, who only wants the best for her and her family. Aimee Blake (Therese Plaehn), the older daughter who will soon be losing her job, faces a pending operation and is still reeling from a breakup. And Fiona "Momo" (Lauren Klein), the Blake matriarch who is battling severe Alzheimer's and has only one coherent moment during a family prayer. In a particularly heartwarming moment when one of her emails to her granddaughters is read out loud, we get a glimpse of a woman full of feisty spirit and unconditional love.

Karam expertly writes the way that people speak, often talking over each other, or not necessarily completing a thought. With a stellar cast and smooth direction from Joe Mantello, THE HUMANS is incredibly relatable. The Blake family attempts to support each other with each generation facing significant challenges and life changes. Underlying past events creep into their existence affecting their abilities to move forward in some cases.

Thomas, best known from the 1970's The Waltons, is terrific as the father dealing with his own demons and uncertain future while trying to steer his daughters on the right path. Reed is excellent as she finds the right blend of assured caretaker, but is passive aggressive enough to drive her family crazy at times. Eagan nicely grounds Brigid in her reality as a struggling entertainer in the big city. She has found love and a home but lacks the career - the three things that are said to give us our center. Klein, who originated "Momo" on Broadway, is genuine and heartbreaking. Vega finds many nice moments as Richard. Plaehn's portrayal of Aimee is wonderful as she conveys warmth, humor, fear, and sincerity over the course of the turbulent holiday.

David Zinn's set has the perfect New York vibe, complete with sparse light from limited windows. The only drawback of this production for me was that the Cadillac Palace felt too big for this piece. The play definitely stands on its own but it may be better served in a more intimate venue.

While THE HUMANS may not let you escape what occupies your mind each day, it can reassure that you are not alone. And you may leave thinking your family isn't so dysfunctional after all.

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THE HUMANS runs through February 11 at Broadway In Chicago's Cadillac Palace Theatre. Tickets are available at all Broadway In Chicago Box Offices, via the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

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From This Author Patrick Rybarczyk

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