27 January 2017

The Humans

Last month I was in New York City, and took the opportunity to watch The Humans by Stephen Karam. This was a Tony Award winning play, which was performing at the Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre. It tells the story of a family, with multiple generations. There are the parents; the father's old mom who suffers from Alzheimer's disease; and the two grown children, Aimee and Brigid, as well as Brigid's partner Richard. Everyone has problems, everyone has skeletons in the closet, and everyone reveals these skeletons little by little throughout the play. And as you the audience is a voyeur looking into the family dynamics, you think oh yeah, that's a family all right.

As I said, everyone has issues. And all of these issues get uncovered during Thanksgiving dinner. Momo (the grandmother) has Alzheimer's disease and pretty much doesn't remember anything. Richard doesn't seem to be able to jumpstart his career, but he has a trust fund which will be available to him when he turns 40. Brigid is a struggling musician who also couldn't find a job. Aimee is a lawyer who is losing her job, who her girlfriend, and is losing part of her intestine. Erik (the dad) has problems with his wife, and was also fired from his job. And finally, Deirdre is a religious nutjob of a woman who thinks that things happen because of God or some other supernatural being.

So, given that this is the setting, there's no traditional "conflict" so to speak. There's no traditional narrative progression, where there is a development, and a conflict resolution, and a conclusion. No, the play ends and the conflict is still there. So instead of having a traditional ending, what the audience is given is a slice of family life, where these conflicts are uncovered, and perhaps, at the end of the play, these skeletons go back to their respective closets and life goes on.

As such I think I like the play. It is like a mirror of every family out there, I think. Even my family has skeletons in our closets. I definitely can relate to a few characters in the play.

So sometimes, one would wonder, why would we even watch a play like that, when all we need to do is visit our family members? I suppose because at least at the end of the play you could forget about it, but you couldn't forget your family members. They are still there, no matter how annoying they might be. And in the off chance that your family is better than the one in the play, at least you could gloat that you have a better family than what was depicted.

I think I liked the acting. But I am not an actor and not familiar with the necessary terminology to actually critique it properly. I liked it.

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