Sometimes a play — a really, really good one — gets under your skin and stays there long after the curtain falls. Stephen Karam’s most recent effort, The Humans, is precisely that kind of play.
The synopsis of The Humans is fairly pedestrian: an Irish-Catholic family, hailing from Pennsylvania, visits New York City to celebrate Thanksgiving and offer housewarming to their youngest daughter and her live-in boyfriend at their recently inhabited, sparsely furnished, ground and basement-level duplex in Chinatown. Said family interacts, and the results are unexpected, as it is with any family, particularly over the holidays.
And yet, from the start, the audience is acutely aware that there is much more going on here then simply the mundane. Along with Justin Townsend and Fitz Patton’s masterful lighting and sound design, David Zinn’s excellently crafted set perfectly captures the gritty, distressed, exposed-brick-and-pipes realism of life in New York City. From the lack of natural light penetrating the interior (due to obstructed windows, of course), the invasion of sounds from the street below (shouts, car horns, et al.), the droning of the washing machines from the nearby laundry room, the shrill screeching of the trash compactor, and the intermittent, somewhat ominous, clanking and thumping emanating from the upstairs neighbor, the building is presented as part of a living, breathing organism, of which the street level and basement duplex is quite clearly the bowels.
The Humans is a bold, unsentimental examination of the institution of family, demonstrating equal parts fragility and resilience, fear and courage, misery and joy. Mr. Karam fearlessly challenges the conventional notion of family, lifting up the hood, per se, and allowing his audience a voyeuristic peek through the proscenium, revealing the mechanics in all their grim, sullied, unsexy glory, as if to say: “See, this is how it really works. It ain’t pretty, sure, but it starts on a dime.”
Go see this one, if for no other reason than the likelihood of hours of discussion it will inspire.
240 W 44th St
Pair it with:
Dinner at The Clocktower
Located in the Metropolitan Life building in the New York Edition hotel, The Clocktower serves contemporary British cuisine and is the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef, Jason Atherton, and famed restaurateur (Buddakan, Upland), Stephen Starr. The restaurant has three charmingly-small dining rooms, a swanky billiard room and a cozy bar, each with walls plastered with incredible photographs. The food was satisfying, the dessert — milk chocolate cremeux with condensed milk sherbet–was AMAZING, and the atmosphere made it a night to remember.
5 Madison Ave
Breakfast: Mon-Sun 6:30am–10am
Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30am–3pm
Brunch: Sat & Sun 11:30am–3pm
Dinner: Sun, Mon, Tue 5:30pm–10pm and Wed-Sat 5:30pm–11pm