BWW Review: THE HUMANS at Seattle Rep is a Searing Slice of Life but in a Hurry to Leave
Thanksgiving dinner is a tumultuous time for many of us as we attempt to spend an evening with our loved ones. Sure, we love our families but we don't always see eye to eye and as the wine flows and the turkey and yams fill our bellies, maybe our inhibitions and filters lower. That's the kind of dinner currently being served at the Seattle Rep as they host the beginning of the national tour of Stephen Karam's Tony Award winning play, "The Humans". And while I love the tight dialog and raw honesty, the ending of the play does come across as a bit abrupt.
Karam's play took Broadway by storm in 2016 and rightfully so as it simply and honestly portrayed an average family as they convened at their youngest daughter Brigid's (Daisy Eagan) new New York apartment she shares with her boyfriend Rich (Luis Vega). Mom and Dad, Deirdre and Erik Blake (Pamela Reed and Richard Thomas) have arrived with tons of necessities for the new place along with their older daughter Aimee (Therese Plaehn) who's suffering from severe intestinal issues and the wheelchair bound, dementia afflicted Momo (Lauren Klein). It's not a Norman Rockwell painting but it's pleasant enough but as the evening wears on the layers of pleasantry get peeled away and the harsh underbelly of the family is exposed.
The dysfunctional family gathering play is not a new concept and the Blake's are not at vicious as, say, the Westons of "August: Osage County" but don't think they don't have as much to say. They do, they just do it in a more realistic and everyman kind of way and that, I think, is what made this play resonate as much as it did. People could relate. But as much as I appreciate the realism of the piece it's that ending that leaves me wanting. Not the final moments, which I think are brilliant, but how we get there as once the big reveal of the play happens it felt like Karam just wanted to go home so he sent the family home as well. It's just so quick as to be a little bit jarring.
The performances and arcs in the piece are stunning, however. Eagan and Plaehn as two sisters in very different points in their lives each show off some amazing needs to succeed, one to get back where she once was and the other to find her place. Vega, makes for a perfect foil as the new family member trying to fit into this odd dynamic. And Klein may not have much to do throughout the piece but what she does is outstanding. But it's Reed and Thomas who do much of the heavy lifting in the play as we watch them attempt to remain the parental figures to their daughters even as their worlds are crumbling. Especially Reed who manages to convey volumes with a mere glance.
I was fortunate enough to catch this one on Broadway and I can honestly say I got more out of it on this viewing with this cast. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give "The Humans" at the Seattle Rep a moved YAY. Just the thing to take your mind off your own family for awhile.