BWW Review: THE HUMANS at The San Jose Stage Company
"The Humans" by Stephen Karam and directed by Tony Kelly is now playing at the The San Jose Stage Company Theatre. Karam's one act play won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play.
"The Humans" is a modern take on family "the Blake family" who have gathered for dinner at Brigid's (and live-in boyfriend Erik) Manhattan apartment in Chinatown, NYC. 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 conversations the family must grapple with religious perspectives, illness and aging, financial fears, and family secrets. Transcending their many imperfections are the ties that bind family together in the midst of change and challenge.
Karam has written interwoven dialog that is witty yet has familiar ring. He has built into this play so many unexpected twists and turns that the audience remains engaged in the antics the entire time. In this San Jose Stage production the cast has embraced the material with such realism that one feels a bit of a voyeur. 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.
Director Kelly has assembled an agile cast that is up to this cathartic task of a script. In the parental roles of Erik and Deirdre Blake are Tim Kniffin and Marie Shell. Kniffin delivers an anxious paternal character with enough charge to keep him edgy, yet vulnerability enough to allow light into the cracks in his veneer. Shell is "everyone's mom" in this show and her authenticity is a strength in the production. Shell's engaging conversational timing sets the tone for realism that quickly draws the audience in.
Lyndsy Kail plays Aimee (sister/daughter) who is struggling to keep it together after the end of her relationship. Kail plays her emotional cards well as she maneuvers from her authoritative attorney persona to her scared "I have a disease" one. Jessica Powell as the Alzheimer's ravaged "Momo" times her efforts nicely. Powell's quiet intensity grows to agitated frenzy as the tensions in the show mount.
Madeline Rouverol (Brigid Blake) and George Psarras (Richard Saad) pair as the perfect modern couple. They are partners who have shed some of the cumbersome conventions of the past while embracing emotionally meaningful traditions. They exemplify the progressive nature of a younger generation who cringe at the parents staid beliefs. Rouverol is spirited in the role as she shows she is becoming the glue that now holds this family together. Psarras, as the new-comer to the family cooly steers the conversation to more gentle tones to lighten the mood. The juxtaposition of the intergenerational couples builds throughout the entire show revealing both weakness and strength.
The San Jose Stage Company Creative Team includes: Michael Truman Cavanaugh- Stage Manager, Giulio Perrone - Scenic Designer, Michael Palumbo- Lighting Designer, Madeline Berger - Costume Designer, Lana Palmer- Sound Designer, Caitlin Elizabeth - Properties Designer, Audrey Rumsby - Dialect Coach,
"The Humans" continues through December 15th, 2019, and tickets may be purchased by calling 408-283-7142, online at www.thestage.org , or in person at the box office at 490 South First St, San Jose 95113
Photos courtesy of The San Jose Stage Company