On a whim, one autumn Saturday in 2015, I decided to take in a matinee of Stephen Karam’s The Humans. A friend needed someone to take the ticket off her hands, and I thought it’d be a nice way to spend the afternoon. The only prior knowledge of the show I had when I sat in my seat was a markedly vague title and a brief plot description – a few sentences describing what sounded like a standard family drama. One hour and forty minutes later, my sense of self and personal comfort was shattered.

Within minutes, it was quite clear that this brilliant work stands profoundly on its own, beyond convention, with bafflingly realistic dialogue, a seamless nonstop structure, and a cleverly baked-in feeling of dread. The play is a fastidious portrait of the Blake family, funneled through the lens of the most notorious and stressful day for the American family unit: Thanksgiving. Combined with the stark setting of an unfurnished, two-story space with a solitary window (the youngest daughter’s new Chinatown apartment), and loud eerie thuds constantly erupting from the floor above, this play quickly reveals it is not in the business of making one feel at ease. The bond between the family members is strong and the feelings warm, but the dynamic is undercut throughout the play by bickering, judgment, and long-held secrets. With the loud thuds, the bitter remarks, and a slow, creeping shroud of uncertainty… eventually, we begin to wonder which quality is most human: the desire to be close to one another or the fear that we never truly will be.

Anna Troiano, marketing associate

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