Last Wednesday night at about 6:00PM, I texted my good friend, “What are you doing tonight?”
Her response, “Well, I have some unpacking to do, a desk drawer to be cleaned…”
I don’t even care about the rest of the response, it was mundane housework.
My solution, “Great. Let’s go see a show.” Without waiting for a response, “I’ll meet you in Times Square. I’ll go to TKTS, and I’ll let you know what we’re going to see.”
We both had talked about going to see “CATS” for three reasons: 1) I’m a huge Andrew Lloyd Weber fan, 2) I hated it when I was younger and being a huge Andrew Lloyd Weber fan I had to give it another chance, and 3) our good friend worked on the flying in the show. Great reasons! BUT… Being that it was a weeknight show, there were tickets available, but curtain was at 7:30PM and there was no way in hell she was going to make it in time. CATS.
Upon arriving at the TKTS window, I asked for two tickets to “The Color Purple.” Thankfully, the gentleman at the ticket window informed me that it was all understudies that night. I’m sure the understudies are great, but I really wanted to see the main cast. THE COLOR PURPLE.
I shrugged. Dug into my memory of the TKTS show board. “The Humans”. Two tickets fifth row center orchestra. PERFECT!
We’re Going To See “The Humans”
I knew the play had won Tonys, including Best Play and Best Direction of a Play, but I knew little about the show itself. For all I knew, it was a play about aliens invading earth and watching humans. What I was about to experience was, as I posted on my facebook page after the show, “So f**king human and So f**king good.”
Set in a lower manhattan (chinatown), pre-war duplex, the story takes place over the course of Thanksgiving dinner. Though this isn’t the family’s traditional gathering spot for the holiday, Erik Blake (Reed Birney) brings his wife Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), mother (Lauren Klein) and daughter Bridgid (Sarah Steele) to his youngest daughter Aimee’s (Cassie Beck) new apartment that she shares with her boyfriend (Arian Moayed). Sparsely furnished, the emptiness of the space seems to be filled by the personal struggles that each of the characters holds on to.
Grandma “Momo” suffers from dementia, and provides some much needed comic relief and more somber moments throughout the play, as Aimee Blake plays the typical hostess right through the up and down moments of the dinner. Erik has something to tell the family, Deirdre presses him as he tries to find the right moment to tell his new truth. As a member of the audience immersed in their life, you can’t help but think he’s been diagnosed with some terrible disease. He’s thoughtful, constantly peering out the window — trying to avoid the moment, or maybe trying to get out of the rumbling dump that his daughter lives in.
One of the greatest things about theatre is that for 90 minutes to 2 hours, you are invited escape your life and live in someone else’s story, but what brought me into this story was that it’s every family. The grandmother with dementia, the unwed, artist daughter living with her boyfriend away from the family, the gay daughter dealing with her own health issues and breakups, a family that escaped disaster on 9/11…
As I looked in on the Blake family’s Thanksgiving dinner, I could see my family. These characters are so real that there is no escaping it; you’ve lived this Thanksgiving dinner over and over every year of your life. Your mind can’t help but wander a little, as their story unfolds, to your own family secrets, your own family coverups, your own family trials and tribulations. There is no escaping through this story.
The Humans is so powerful because “it’s so fucking human” and it really is so fucking good.
Kevin Michael Reed is a theatre maker from New York City living in Dublin and London. His production credits have included producer, director, playwright, dramaturg and designer. He is Artistic Director of Squire Lane Theatrical UK, a theatre production company specialising in developing new works for the stage. He holds a BFA in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY), a MA in Playwriting from City, University of London, and a MFA in Theatre Directing from The Lir, National Academy of Dramatic Art, Trinity College Dublin.