Is there any event more telling than a holiday spent with family? Adult children revert back to their childhood selves, parents can’t see their children as the adults they’ve become, family traditions become all the more important and emotions run high.
‘The Humans’, in a production at Proctors rife with humor, pathos and suspense, understands the power a holiday can hold. Erik and Dierdre Blake (Richard Thomas and Pamela Reed), their daughter Aimee (Therese Plaehn) and Erik’s mother Momo (Lauren Klein) have come from Pennsylvania to spend the holidays with their daughter Brigid (Daisy Eagan) and her boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega) in New York City.
Their new duplex has a haunted air and Erik and Dierdre aren’t pleased Brigid has chosen to live in New York. As the visit progresses, secrets come out, bad habits come back, old wounds are reopened and the family is stretched to the breaking point.
Proctors doesn’t often stage plays, and the choice to have The Humans here is a good one – the size of the opening night audience seems to back up my opinion. The set (designed by David Zinn) is stunning – a cutaway of both floors of the duplex – and the lighting design (by Justin Townsend), with plenty of shadows flickering through the old apartment, is genuinely haunting.
The sound design (by Fitz Patton) is eerie – the sounds come from nowhere and are nerve-wracking – but the actors were often hard to hear; I don’t believe they were miked (which is fine – microphones on actors can be distracting to look at) but in a theater as large as Proctors, whatever sort of amplification system was being used needed to be turned up a bit as we lost a decent portion of the dialogue.
Steven Karam’s script is a strong one (it was in contention for a Pulitzer) with an equally strong cast – for example, Thomas, best known as John-Boy Walton, perhaps, but with plenty of stage productions and awards under his belt; Reed (known to me as Leslie Knope’s mother on my beloved Parks and Recreation), another powerhouse stage actress, and Eagan, a Tony Award winner for The Secret Garden. There’s not a weak link in the cast.
What stood out to me is the believability of it all; there were so many times I laughed in recognition of something that could easily have happened with my own family (Thomas checking the apartment to see if it needed repairs, Reed trying to coax her children back to Catholicism.) This is a group completely comfortable with one another, and what we’re seeing is something that could happen with any family on any holiday; it’s a play that resonates deeply with something inside of us.
The show is only running through Sunday, and it’s not often you get to see a show of this caliber with a cast of this quality right in your own backyard. Trust me, you’ll want to spend this particular Thanksgiving with the Blake family. It’s the next best thing to being home for the holidays