Saturday February 24th 2018

The Humans”

Broadway In Chicago, as part of its 2017/2018 season, is presenting the Award-Winning, “The Humans” written by Stephen Karam. The first problem with this production has to be the venue. The Cadillac Palace, one of our most beautiful theaters is far to large for an intimate, non-musical, such as this. “The Humans” is in fact 90 minutes ( real- time, mind you) of breaking the fourth wall and sort of eavesdropping on a family’s Thanksgiving Dinner.

The play, when done originally in Chicago, was in a much smaller theater (American Theatre Company) where the audience felt closer to this American middle-class family, who has broken all tradition on this particular “Turkey-Day” to move their dinner to their daughter’s new apartment in the Lower East side of New York. The Blake family is composed of Eric ( Richard Thomas, of “The Walton’s” TV show is terrific as this middle-aged man who has made some wrong choices in his life) and his wife, Dierdre ( deftly handled by Pamela Reed) are from Pennsylvania, so making the trek to Manhattan for a family gathering is somewhat of a strain for them.

They also have Erik’s mother, Fiona ( Lauren Klein, who is asked to play a difficult role of an aging invalid) and their other daughter ,Aimee ( a solid job by Therese Plaehn) who has just been through a terrible break-up with them. The hostess for this family dinner is their  daughter, Brigid ( the darling Daisy Eagan) and her live-in boyfriend Richard ( played to perfection by Luis Vega). Richard is a caring young man who wants to have his new” family” love him as much as he loves their daughter, even though his background is much different from theirs. He has a life of wealth, while theirs is very “middle-class”.

The apartment (designed by David Zinn) is a two -story conversion where the bathroom is on one floor and while there is a spiral staircase, the use of the elevator in the hall is how the bathroom usage works best. During this 90 minutes dinner, we learn much about each of the family members and as we do, we learn the good, the bad and the ugly. There are brown-outs and the upstairs neighbor is busy re-doing some of the walls ( on a holiday?) causing jumpiness and anxiety within the Blake family.

As they unfold the truths in their lives, we the audience, begin to see how these people are very close to us and people we know and love. Are they dysfunctional? I think not! I think they are people who have chosen paths that were not the perfect ones to lead them to utopia ( isn’t that what we all want in our lives?). The secrets come out as the dinner progresses and as we listen, we come to the conclusion that if we are not careful, this could be us or someone very close to us.

As someone who has reached a plateau in life, I know how it feels to look back at some of the turns I made and think about what “might” have been, “if I had chosen a different path”. This story sheds light on this topic and will cause you to think and perhaps even talk to your loved ones about the direction you have, or are about to go on. Many audience members, found that they had problems hearing the actors, who are not wearing mikes ( and should).  Karam has written some prolific material. Why not let the words be heard. Technology can overcome anything!

Director Joe Mantello does a masterful job with the characters and the staging of this Turkey-Day. Again, it is the sound that doesn’t reach out to the huge Cadillac Palace that hurts the production. For your edification, the furniture is on the moving van, so they are doing makeshift with folding chairs and tables so they can host this special holiday dinner. Listen carefully to each character as they let their own fears and anxieties “out of the bag”. I never give away some of the surprises that a playwright expresses, but will give you this hint. This could easily be someone you know, or maybe even your family!

“The Humans” is here ONLY thru February 11th with performances as follows:

Tuesdays  7:30 p.m.

Wednesdays  7:30 p.m. (added matinee on 2/7 at 2 p.m.)

Thursdays  7:30 p.m.

Fridays  7:30 p.m.

Saturdays  2 and 8 p.m.

Sundays  2 p.m. (added 7:30 p.m. this Sunday, 2/4)

Tickets range from $25-$98 and are available at all Broadway In Chicago box offices, by calling the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com

The Cadillac Palace theatre is located at 151 West Randolph

To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-Up and click at “The Humans”.

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