Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Off-Broadway Review The Humans


Some Thanksgivings, You Shouldn't Go Home Again
By Lauren Yarger
You can't go home again. And sometimes that might be a good thing.
Stephen Karam's play The Humans, getting an extended Off-Broadway run by Roundabout Theatre Company makes that clear -- at least to the perfect home we may have created in the back of our minds -- and intelligently raises a number of issues we all struggle with when it comes to family: midlife crisis, fears, breaking away, betrayal, illness and forgiveness -- all things human. And just in time for the holidays.

It's Thanksgiving and the Blakes are breaking with tradition this year. Erik (Reed Birney) and Deirdre (Jaye Houdyshell) are not hosting dinner in their Scranton home. Instead, they have driven to Chinatown, NY to celebrate at the new place with a lot of potential where their daughter,  Brigid (Sarah Steele) and her boyfriend, Richard Saad (Arian Moayed) have just moved. (The pre-war duplex in need of work is designed by David Zinn).

Joining them are Brigid's down-on-her-luck sister, Aimee (Cassie Beck), who is still emotional after a breakup with her long time girlfriend. She also just found out she isn't going to make partner at her law firm, in part due to having to take a lot of sick days because of a flare up of her colitis.

Completing the family portrait is "Momo (Lauren Klein), the girls' Alzheimer-ridden grandmother who doesn't always remember them. She rambles incoherent sentences and has become the full-time project of Deirde. She appears to take care of her mother-in-law with joy, but feeling needed may be her real motiviation.

On the surface, the family seems loving and supportive as they join in traditional Irish songs. But beneath the facade, annoyances brew. Erik is haunted by something and seems particularly agitated by the noise that can be heard from an apartment upstairs. Festering resentment works its way into the conversation to spotlight just how difficult family relations can be.

Joe Mantello directs deep and moving performances, particularly from the always excellent Birney and Houdyshell.  There isn't necessarily a defined plot to Karam's play, and it does leave a lot of questions unanswered. It is more like a guided eavesdropping into the lives of the people and is absorbing throughout.

The Humans is part of Roundabout’s New Play Initiative, a collection of programs, designed to foster and produce new work by emerging and established artists. The Humans is the second play commissioned by Roundabout fromKaram (Speech and Debate and Sons of the Prophet.

The Humans plays through Jan. 3 at the Laura Pels Theatre in the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre,  111 West 46th St., NYC. Performances are Tuesday through Saturday evening at 7:30 with Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday
matinees at 2 pm. Tickets are $79: 212-719-1300;

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- Homosexualtiy
-- Sexua dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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