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A CurtainUp DC Review
The Humans

"Don't you think it should cost less to be alive?"— Erik Blake to his family, assembled for Thanksgiving.
The Humans
Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Vega in The Humans at the Kennedy Center.

Stephen Karam's clever, enlightening, funny, thought- provoking and ultimately tragic play that swept the awards scene in 2016, unfolds in a fast moving 90 minutes. Its theme shows how the American dream has turned into a nightmare.

Evidence of dystopia — job loss, downward mobility, insoluble debt, poor living standards, and the lack of caring by public and private institutions — envelope the Blake family as they sit down to a Thanksgiving dinner. The menu includes heaping servings of one-liners, bold truths and love.

Lauren Klein, the only holdover from the New York cast, gives a superb performance as Momo, the demented matriarch of the family. She is joined by a perfectly tuned, affecting cast.

Director Joe Mantello knows how to get the best out of his actors individually and as an ensemble. Richard Thomas as Erik Blake, a teacher who has tumbled down the class ladder, inspires sympathy. He and his wife, Deidre, endearingly characterized by Pamela Reed, are clearly out-of-step with their daughters. The generational divide is more like a chasm but, somehow, each side copes with their differences and remain a close, sympathetic family.

Daisy Egan as Brigid, the more demonstrative of the two sisters, could not be funnier or sadder. Her sister Aimee who is facing her own disappointments gets a sympathetic characterization by Therese Plaehn.

That leaves the one member of the cast who is not (yet) part of the family, namely Brigid's live-in boyfriend, Richard Saad. There is nothing working class about him due to his education, background and finances. He says little but Luis Vega, the actor who plays Richard, has perfect timing, especially when he lands one of the best of the script's 's many one-liners.

The Human's ends in the dark, literally and figuratively, but the take-away is illuminating though unsettling. Not all Tony winners (plus NY Drama Critics, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards) travel well but this one will. It is a very fine play that deservedly won all those awards. It should/will have a long life. May it be blessed with ensembles and a creative team as good as this one.

For reviews of the New York off and on Broadway productions, see Elyse Sommer's incisive reviews here

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The Humans by Stephe Karam
Directed by Joe Mantello; Scenic Design by David Zinn; Lighting by Justin Townsend; Sound by Fitz Patton.

Cast: Richard Thomas (Erik Blake); Therese Plaehn (Aimee Blake); Daisy Eagan (Brigid Blake); Pamela Reed (Dierdre Blake); Lauren Klein (Fiona "Momo" Blake; Luis Vega (Richard Saad.)
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission. Kennedy Center, from January 9 to 28, 2018. Reviewed by Susan Davidson at January 12, 2018 performance.

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