5 Reasons ‘The Humans’ Is About Your Family
It’s tempting to think of Stephen Karam’s play “The Humans” as “just another dysfunctional family drama,” where tempers flare and secrets emerge as a middle-class family gathers around the table for Thanksgiving dinner.
But that would be doing this Pulitzer Prize-nominated play a huge disservice. One of the reasons the play resonates so deeply with audiences — so much so that it won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2016 — is that it’s truly, uncomfortably, shockingly relatable. “The Humans” is playing at Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre through July 29. Here are five reasons why the Blake clan is similar to your own.
1. Parents don’t always understand your life decisions.
Who hasn’t heard, “but if you just moved back home…” once or twice after starting your new life in a new city? Brigid, a young musician, is trying to live her dream in New York City, but her parents are desperate to see their youngest return to Pennsylvania. Though they may not share her enthusiasm for the pre-war Chinatown duplex she’s scored with live-in boyfriend Rich, they nonetheless brave ice and snow to spend Thanksgiving in her new digs. And perhaps most importantly, they also take her on a Bed Bath & Beyond run for household supplies.
2. Being the significant other at the family holiday is awkward AF.
Poor Rich. He makes such an effort to connect with the Blakes, but they constantly keep crossing signals, from football scores to dream interpretations to Rich’s impending trust fund. But he does keep encouraging Deirdre to talk about her volunteer work, which scores some major politeness points.
3. You can count on siblings to have your back.
Older sister Aimee is having a really hard year, after losing her job and girlfriend and being diagnosed with a major illness. But she still makes a point of telling Brigid she supports her, and acknowledges Rich’s contributions to the meal and conversation when it seems as if no one else will.
4. Sometimes just existing is hard (and expensive).
Sure, Brigid and Rich live in one of the priciest cities in the world, so paying the rent is obviously going to be a struggle sometimes. But as Erik reveals and Deirdre commiserates, you also can’t necessarily count on a long-term job to reward you in the end. But families try their hardest to be there for you, whether that means sending a care package full of batteries and a camping lantern or caring for you as Alzheimer’s causes your mind to slip away.
5. Family knows just how to twist the knife.
To deliver a really cutting insult, you have to know just where it will hurt the most. There are several times where Karam has his characters deliver a remark so specific and hurtful that it makes the audience gasp in recognition. We may not mean to, but pointing out that Weight Watchers points are much easier to count if you don’t fill up on appetizers or that “following your passion” isn’t a sustainable life choice hurts so much more because we recognize the kernel of truth hidden in there. And our loved ones do too.