The Humans is a family drama with plenty of surprises

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The Humans | Arts Club Theatre Company | Stanley Theatre | March 22 – April 22, 2018

Surreal, comical, and deeply human, this is a family drama that has Brigid’s mom pressuring her to get married, her sister complaining about her ulcerative colitis, and her boyfriend struggling to find something to talk about with her father — and that’s before they even sit down for Thanksgiving dinner.

Brigid (Samantha Rose Richard) and Richard (Parm Soor) have just moved into their two floor basement apartment in Manhattan and Bridgid’s family have made the drive from Pennsylvania to see the new place and celebrate Thanksgiving. Each family member is awkward in their own way, and Richard does his best to stay out of family conflicts while he prepares the meal.   

The impressive two-level set with a wrought iron spiral staircase by Drew Facey allows for multiple scenes to take place at once. Brigid’s sister Aimee (Briana Buckmaster) goes upstairs to call her ex-girlfriend while her father listens from the next room. Meanwhile, the rest of the family is downstairs trying to calm down grandma, “Momo,” (Gina Stockdale). They finally manage to get everyone in one place and settled down long enough to eat dinner, but the calm is short–lived.

When the family first arrives, one of the first things they notice is the thumping noises coming from the apartment above them. Brigid explains that she doesn’t feel like she can ask the older Chinese lady to keep quiet, so they put up with it. Bombarded with a whole variety of eerie, unexpected sounds such as a trash compactor, the laundry room, people walking down the alley, creaky walls, and more ominous bumps from above, the soundscape creates a foreboding tone that something bad is about to happen. Indeed, the revelation that their quiet father, Erik (Kevin McNulty), finally shares with Brigid and Aimee is as if he has dropped a bomb.

Erik and his wife, Deirdre (Nicola Lipman), are a pessimistic pair always telling Brigid about her apartment being in a flood zone and worrying about break-ins. Their housewarming gift is an emergency kit. Deirdre also brings a Virgin Mary statue to watch over the young couple and hints many times that she would prefer if they got married. Her performance provided a good dose of comedic relief, while Aimee’s sardonic quips about her family were spot on.   

The story of Brigid and Erik’s first trip to New York City also looms over the gathering as he describes their fortune at not being hurt on September 11, 2001. He can’t understand why Brigid wants to live in New York, while she can’t understand how he can enjoy living in small-town Scranton, PA. Erik seems to be in his own world much of the time, and it’s only when he shares his secret that we understand why he’s been so absent.

Getting lost in the multiple conversations and conflicts swirling around this family gathering, the time flies for most of the show until the pace slows a bit after the father reveals some unsettling news. From there it seemed to take a bit too long for things to wrap up, but when he walks towards the light coming through the basement door to the alley, the last the leave the apartment, we get the sense that he carries a great deal of guilt and that he may be able to make amends with his family.

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