This is a major play, no doubt about it, but what a lot of critics and commentators seem to have missed is what a deeply political play it is. It focuses on the Irish-American Blake family, who have come to youngest daughter Brigid’s (Sarah Steele) sketchy tenement Chinatown apartment (a “duplex” by virtue of extending into a basement) to celebrate Thanksgiving. All of them are dealing with serious problems of one sort or another, which they face with a mix of willful but warm good humor and stoic endurance. What struck me was the lack of any social safety net to help them with their problems.
Even the arguably most affluent family member, lawyer sister Aimee (Cassie Beck), has no defense against being fired for not having enough billable hours, even though the reason was a debilitating illness. And working class father Erik (Reed Birney) and mother Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) from Scranton? Forget it, they just have to do whatever it takes to get by. This family could be poster children for the Sanders campaign.
What the critics didn’t miss – how could you – is that The Humans is a deeply humane and compassionate play, and, in spite of tackling difficult subjects, a sparklingly funny one. If society and government don’t have the backs of the Blake family, they certainly have each others’ – even in the most trying of circumstances, as the play’s last burst of dialogue suggests.
The cast is uniformly extraordinary, with my personal favorite being the always sparkling Houdyshell. Director Joe Mantello delineates ever turn of this intricate play, never missing a detail or a nuance. Highly recommended.
For tickets, click here.
To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.blog.
For more reviews and interviews by Jonathan Warman, see his blog Drama Queen.