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Review: The Humans at Hampstead Theatre

21 September, 2018 — By Sipora Levy

Cast of The Humans at Hampstead Theatre. Photo: Marc Brenner

STEPHEN Karam’s play arrives at Hampstead Theatre with four Tony Awards and the original Broadway cast. This was a clever move by artistic director, Edward Hall, as these exemplary actors do wonders with the quick-pace overlapping dialogue.

Although the territory is familiar, the performances and writing are of such a high calibre, it is totally engrossing.
Lasting 90 minutes and set in real time, three generations of the Blake family meet for Thanksgiving, in Brigid’s Chinatown apartment. As drinks flow, tensions and resentments are revealed and each character carries their own burden of fear and sorrow.

Grandmother Fiona (Lauren Klein) has advanced dementia. Dad Erik (Reed Birney) has lost his job, harbours a dark secret and suffers from horrific nightmares. Mother Deirdre (Jayne Houdyshell) has been passed over for promotion, and fears ageing.

The parents have financial worries and can barely conceal their rage at the unfairness of a system that has left them with so little. They are baffled by and impatient with the younger generation, who seemingly, have easy lives by comparison. Railing against superfoods and psychotherapy Eric quips: “If you are so miserable, why are you trying to live forever.”

Eric and Deirdre have two daughters – Aimee (Cassie Beck), who has been dumped by her girlfriend and is struggling with ulcerative colitis, and Brigid (Sarah Steele), an unsuccessful musician who shares her Chinatown apartment with her older boyfriend Richard, (Arian Moayed), who has mental health issues.

Their fears are heightened by the failings of their duplex apartment. Strange and violent noises from an overhead neighbour and dodgy electrics create a power failure add to their tensions.

There is a painful and potentially destructive revelation towards the end, but one is left with the impression that, despite all their problems, the Blake family are well worth spending time with.

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