This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



(photo by Brigitte Lacombe)

Stephen Karam explores the bright and dark sides of the American dream in beautifully humanistic Broadway drama (photo by Brigitte Lacombe)

Helen Hayes Theatre
240 West 44th St.
Tuesday - Sunday through July 24, $39-$145

The most human off-Broadway show of the season is now the most human on Broadway. The Roundabout production of Pulitzer Prize finalist Stephen Karam’s The Humans, which ran at the Laura Pels from October 25 through January 3, has made a seamless transition to the Great White Way, where it is inhabiting the Helen Hayes Theatre through July 24. Karam has made minimal, virtually undetectable tweaks to the play, which features the same cast and crew and is just as good the second time around. Tony nominee and Drama Desk and Obie Award winner Reed Birney stars as Erik Blake, the patriarch of a Scranton family that is gathering for Thanksgiving in the new Chinatown apartment of younger daughter Brigid (Sarah Steele), which she and boyfriend, Richard (Arian Moayed) have just moved into. Erik and his wife, Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell), have driven into the city with his ailing mother, Momo (Lauren Klein), who requires constant care. They are joined by older daughter Aimee (Cassie Beck), a Philadelphia lawyer who has recently broken up with her longtime girlfriend. Over the course of ninety-five intimate minutes, we learn about each character’s strengths and weaknesses, their hopes and dreams, their successes and their failures, as Scranton native Karam (Speech & Debate, Dark Sisters) and two-time Tony-winning director Joe Mantello (Take Me Out, Assassins) steer clear of clichés and melodramatic sentimentality, even when making direct references to 9/11. The acting, led by New York theater treasures Birney (You Got Older, Circle Mirror Transformation) and Houdyshell (Follies, Well) and rising star Steele (Slowgirl, Speech and Debate), is impeccable, making audience members feel like they’re experiencing their own Thanksgiving. Every moment of The Humans, which takes place on David Zinn’s spectacular two-floor tearaway set, rings true, a gripping, honest depiction of life in the twenty-first century, filled with the typical ups and downs, fears and anxieties, that we all face every day. Although things get very serious, including a touch of the otherworldly, the play is also hysterically funny as it paints a familiar yet frightening portrait of contemporary America, mixing in darkness both literally and figuratively. To find out more about the story and to read a short excerpt from the play, you can read my review of the off-Broadway run here, but by this point all you need to know is that this is a must-see production of a must-see show.