BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas City

BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas City

"The Humans" by Stephen Karam and directed by Darren Sextro is now playing at the Unicorn Theatre. Karam's one act play won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play.

"The Humans" centers on the Blake family who have gathered for dinner at Brigid's (and live-in boyfriend Erik) Manhattan apartment in Chinatown. Brigid's parents have arrived from their home in Scranton Pennsylvania along with "Grandma Fiona (Momo) who has Alzheimer's disease. Also attending is Brigid's sister Aimee (a Philadelphia Lawyer) who has developed an intestinal ailment after a recent breakup with her girlfriend. During their conversation the family must grapple with religious perspectives, illness and aging, financial fears, and family secrets. Transcending their many imperfections are the strong ties that bind family together.BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas City

Director Darren Sextro has assembled a nimble cast that is up to this cathartic task of a script. In the parental roles of Erik and Deirdre Blake are Marc Liby and Cathy Barnett. Liby gives a solidly paternal character enough charge to keep him edgy, with ample vulnerability to allow light into the cracks in his veneer. Barnett is "everyone's mom" in this show. Her authenticity is the strength of the show and she sets the tone for realism that quickly draws the audience in.

Local favorite, Katie Karel, returns to the Unicorn playing Aimee (sister/daughter) who is struggling to keep it together after the end of her relationship. Karel plays her emotional cards carefully as she slips from her authoritative attorney hat to her scared "I have a disease" one, while avoiding stereotyping them. Margaret Shelby as the Alzheimer's ravaged "Momo" times her efforts perfectly. At one point, Shelby slips past the audience so unnoticed that there were audible gasps once she's discovered.

Ellen Kirk (Brigid Blake) and L. Roi Hawkins (Richard Saad) are the perfect modern couple. Having shed some of the cumbersome conventions of the past, yet embracing emotionally meaningful traditions, they exemplify the progressive nature of younger generations. Kirk is spirited in the role as she shows she is becoming the glue that now holds this family together. Kirk pairs well with Hawkins as they contrast and compliment each other in equal measure of Yin and Yang. Hawkins, as the new-comer to the family cooly steers the conversation to more gentle tones like a Zen Master.BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas City

Karam has written dialog that is witty yet familiar. However, he has built into this play so many unexpected twists and turns that the audience remains riveted the entire time. In this Unicorn production the cast has embraced the material with such realism that one feels a bit of a voyeur. The cast utilizes the space with well timed stage movement and little posing. Sound and lighting bring effects that surprise and confound. The team is so well in sync that it's as if you are at dinner with a real family, perceiving each nuanced undertone as the zinger they are meant to be. It's understandable why Karam's material has received such notice and we are fortunate in Kansas City to have a cast deliver it as spectacularly as it was intended.

BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas CityThe Unicorn Creative Team includes: Tanya Brown - Stage Manager, Jason Coale - Scenic Designer, Art Kent - Lighting Designer, Ian R. Crawford - Costume Designer, David Kiehl - Sound Designer, Eric Palmquist - Properties Designer, Boni Newberry - Dramaturg, Cloe Robbins - Production Assistant, Abigayle Huggins - Sound Board Operator/Scenic Paint Charge

"The Humans" continues through March 31, 2019. This show, on the Levin Stage, runs 90 minutes long and is performed without intermission. Tickets may be purchased by phone at (816) 531-7529, in person at the Unicorn box office, or via The Unicorn website.

BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Unicorn Theatre Kansas City

Photos courtesy of Cynthia Levin and The Unicorn Theatre

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From This Author Paul Bolton

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