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Seattle Rep’s 'The Humans' Reminds Us What It Means to Be Family

Take your own to see this heartbreaking but hilarious play

Published on: December 02, 2017

"The Humans" at Seattle Rep
The cast of "The Humans" gathers at Thanksgiving dinner. Photo credit: Julieta Cervantes

“The Humans” made me cry. Not a lot but a little. It wasn’t because of the cold meds I was on, either. 

Going to see Seattle Rep’s newest production was the first time I had left the house in nearly three days thanks to a nasty bug picked up over Thanksgiving. I’m so glad I made it.

For those who haven’t heard, “The Humans” is the third show in Seattle Rep’s nine-show season and arguably the most acclaimed of the lot. The play won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play (it had six nominations in all and picked up three other awards).

It’s easy to see why. A breezy 90 minutes with no intermission, “The Humans” is masterful in its sparseness. With just six cast members and one set — that of a daughter’s Chinatown apartment in New York City — the play follows the Blake family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Truly, though, this could be any family gathering. All the required fixings are present: baggage brought from lives lived more apart than together; old memories worn with fond, familiar touch; a skeleton or two peeking out from the closet.

This play's realness will hold up no matter the season.

I saw “The Humans” the week after Thanksgiving so perhaps I was particularly vulnerable to its charm but this realness will hold up no matter the season. 

You have a hard-working father whose dedication to his family is only soured by his inability to verbalize that love (Erik Blake, played by Richard Thomas). There’s the community service-minded mother who neglects the person her grown daughters remind her should be no. 1: herself (Deidre Blake, played by Pamela Reed who, fans of "Parks and Recreation" may recognize as Amy Poehler’s mom). 

Then, the two grown daughters: spunky Brigid (Daisy Eagan) and steady Aimee (Therese Plaehn), each with demons of her own. Their interplay — sometimes allies, sometimes frenemies — will feel familiar to anyone lucky enough to be close to a sibling.

Rounding out the cast: a beloved grandmother suffering from dementia (“Momo,” played by a powerful Lauren Klein) and a befuddled boyfriend doing his darndest to make a good impression (Richard Saad, played by Luis Vega).

As the name suggests, these people are all too human. No character is all good or all bad; there are moments when you don’t like any of them and others when you wish you could climb onstage and hug them. The Blakes give and take at a rapid click, picking at old wounds and soothing new ones, often in the same scene. They are, in other words, a family.

That’s why you should take yours. While “The Humans” isn’t fit for young kids (swear words, allusions to sex and a few truly creepy moments), it’s ideal for mature tweens, teens with their adults, or grown-ups on a date night. One teen sat a seat over from me during Friday’s performance. Sandwiched between her parents, she watched rapt as familiar foibles played out. I saw in her face the same thought that crossed my mind so often during the show: “Have they met my family?!”

If you go...

When: “The Humans” plays Wednesday–Sunday through Dec.17

Where: Seattle Rep's Bagley Wright Theatre at Seattle Center, 155 Mercer St., Seattle

Ages: Best for teens and adults

Length: Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.

Cost: Adult tickets start at $17 for weekday performances and top out near $100; student tickets are $16. Buy online.

Parking: Try one of the nearby parking garages a few blocks from Seattle Center.

TipUpcoming nights include closed captions, audio described and sign interpreted performances as well as a couple performances with post-play discussions. Be sure to check out the lobby for some background on the playwright, Stephen Karam.

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