Stephen Karam’s Tony award-winning script, The Humans crackles with wit and realism. The play takes place in real time and lines topple over one another, characters speak together, and a realistic family dinner unfolds. This particular family has gathered for Thanksgiving. We have the long-married parents, the grandmother, trapped in the throes of dementia, the young unmarried live-in couple, the unwell and recently unemployed older sister, suffering from a bad break up, and an unseen upstairs neighbour who produces pounding and banging noises to further upset an already unbalanced situation.

For the most part, Jackie Maxwell’s direction is masterful and the actors intersect with one another powerfully. Particularly strong is Laurie Paton’s take as the matriarch of the family, Deirdre. Her comedic timing is spot on and she delivers her character with groundedness and honesty. Ric Reid plays the father, Erik, who is tortured by an affair that caused him to lose his job.  The affair creates tension within his marriage, in addition to it being but it has been financially devastating for the family.

Maralyn Ryan plays the grandmother, Momo. She delivers one particularly devastating emotional outbreak that is so tortured, it was absolutely heartbreaking to witness. Richard Lee does some nice understated work as boyfriend Richard. Rounding out the cast are the two sisters Brigid (Sara Farb) and Aimee (Alana Hawley Purvis).

Judith Bowden does triple duty creating the set, props and costumes. The set was a funky two-story space with a spiral staircase connecting the floors.  It was interesting to watch the action take place simultaneously on both levels. It definitely aided in creating the realism of the piece.

Overall, I loved the script and the style of writing of The Humans.  Naturalistic writing is definitely my preferred type of theatre to watch. I did find the end a bit much as it veered into metaphor and the supernatural element. I somehow think the piece would have been much stronger without it.

The Humans is onstage now through February 25. 

About The Author

Nicole Fairbairn

Nicole Fairbairn spent most of her adult life in Vancouver but decided to make Toronto her home four years ago and she’s loving every minute of it. She began writing for fun and it’s turned into a great passion. She’s an avid supporter of the arts and enjoys experiencing the many wonderful cultural events this city has to offer. When she’s not writing, Nicole enjoys reading, ice skating, salsa dancing, travelling and hanging out with her cat. Favourite Place in Toronto: Distillery District with its beautifully restored Victorian buildings, great cafes, stunning galleries, hip boutiques and vibrant theatre scene.

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