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The Humans ~ Kennedy Center

Jordan Wright
January 13, 2018 

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Veda in the national tour of The Humans. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Veda in the national tour of The Humans. Photo by Julieta Cervantes

Stephen Karam’s The Humans takes a deep dive into the zeitgeist of the modern middle-class American family where there is much to recognize and even more to ponder.  The Blake Family are a caring and tolerant lot, more progressive than their Scranton roots might have ou think.  They tenderly care for their wheelchair-bound Momo, the family matriarch, who suffers from acute Alzheimer’s, their gay daughter Aimee, their unmarried daughter Brigid (Daisy Egan) and her social worker boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega), and, what may be even more surprising, they are willing to look away from their father Erik’s career-destroying adultery.  What they are not accepting of is how their lost jobs and mounting debt are affecting their future happiness.

As the family gathers around the Thanksgiving table at Brigid and Rich’s recently rented rundown duplex, they appear to be anything but dysfunctional as they exchange gifts and speak in pleasantries and platitudes.  Soon though, Aimee (Therese Plaehn), a successful attorney, goes into total meltdown.  She’s lost both her job and her girlfriend.  To temper the drama there is much dark humor as Momo (Lauren Klein) interrupts with repeated outbursts and foul curses, while Brigid and Rich do their best to explain away the bars on the windows and the cockroaches in the bedroom.

As a deeply Irish Catholic family, they embrace one another’s failings with grace.  Deirdre (Pamela Reed), a mother whose schadenfreude extends to musings on lesbians, AIDS, and cancer, keeps up a cheerful front to jolly everyone along.

The play’s suspense derives from a curious cacophony emanating from an upstairs Asian neighbor.  What can we draw from that?  Does it signify the random incremental erosion of the status quo?  Or is it related to Erik and Rich’s talk of dreams and monsters?  Talk that seems to affirm the unpredictability of their future.  Even the traditional celebratory peppermint pigs, cracked at a table to signify thankfulness, cannot keep out the unknown.  “We just have a lot of stoic sadness,” Aimee opines

Director Joe Mantello brings together a superbly flawless cast.  Richard Thomas shines as the darkly complex father, Erik, in this compelling and empathetic American dramedy that examines the universal human condition.

A multiple Tony-Award winning play, it is highly recommended.

Through January 28th in the Eisenhower Theatre at The Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information call 202 467-4600 or purchase them online.

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