Review: ‘The Humans’ National Tour at the Kennedy Center

Lights rise on The Humans and there, center stage, is Erik Blake (Richard Thomas), a fish out of water Pennsylvanian Dad in a New York apartment. What is he doing there? And why is he in an apartment alone listening to an extremely loud upstairs neighbor? The story soon unfolds. His adult daughter Brigid (Daisy Eagan) and her boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega) have just moved into the aging Chinatown pre-war duplex. It’s Thanksgiving. And Erik hasn’t slept a wink.

Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan, and Luis Veda in the national tour of The Humans. Photo by Julieta Cervantes.

The following 90 minutes unfold at a rapid pace. This family is in many ways “every” family in the United States: rocked by 9/11, a generational divide in approach to religion, struggling with personal finances, working to integrate adult children’s significant others into a “norm,” navigating aging parents and independent but struggling adult children, and then there’s the email forwards from Mom. The audience laughs knowingly—especially at that one joke about Philly.
The Humans is the four-time Tony Award-winning play written by Stephen Karam and directed by Joe Mantello.

Rounding out the cast is Therese Plaehn as Aimee, Pamela Reed as Dierdre, and Lauren Klein as Fiona “Momo” Blake. There is not an out of touch performance in the lot. Reed and Thomas’ turns as Dierdre and Erik are particularly nuanced, concurrently heart-wrenching and funny.

Scenic design by David Zinn and costume design by Sarah Laux perfectly encompass the setting. We know these people and we know this apartment. Lighting by Justin Townsend sets the tone of the play (especially in the final ten minutes) and Sound Design by Fitz Patton is near perfect. The design is bright but intimate. One can’t help but wish this was being experienced in a smaller venue than the Eisenhower but the sound, scenic design, and lighting contribute in every way possible to make the audience feel like we are right there in the living room.

The Humans is one of those plays that sparks conversation and analysis. We see ourselves in every funny and sad line of dialogue in this American play. How have we been changed by circumstances out of our control? Who are we without success? How can we best love people we disagree with and cannot change? The Humans isn’t so much commenting on what we should do, it’s more like a blistering mirror showing a culture what we are.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with no intermission.

The Humans plays through January 28, 2018, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Eisenhower Theater – 2700 F Street, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 628-6161, or purchase them online.

The Humans Today Tix


  1. This play was incredible. I cannot begin to put into words what I experienced. For an hour and fifteen minutes I was angry. I felt cheated. I had been sitting through a mediocre play about a mediocre family who had problems that were somewhat relatable, but not really. There was no climax. No story line. The Dad made some poor decisions, but was fine. The daughter had a tough time finding a job after getting a degree in music, which wasn’t terribly shocking. The neighbor upstairs was kinda loud, but only a few times. The argument about poverty versus wealth started to get heated, and then the subject was changed. It was just average actors having average dialog.

    And then, in the last ten minutes my wife told me she had to go to the bathroom, but because there was no intermission she couldn’t get up. At this point the lights in the “apartment” on stage were out. Not because of a power outage, or anything particularly interesting, but because the bulbs simply stopped working. You know, kinda like normal but not really. There was no dialog. Just one of the actors on stage with a flashlight sitting at a table for ten minutes in the dark. The audience quiet, expecting something to happen. but. it. never. did.

    I finally understood what I was experiencing. “The Humans” was the ultimate troll. It was an internet meme manifested into a theater production. Nothing happened for an hour and a half, yet I paid $50 to sit through it. It was long enough to make me angry, but not angry enough to do anything about it.

    It was genius or terrible or just really boring. I couldn’t tell. It made me question life. It made me question reality. What is real? What is theater? Whose in the play? Am I an actor in the performance of life? Honestly, this is the most and least thought provoking thing I’ve ever experienced.

    Kudos to Stephen Karem. You are a true visionary or just super boring. I may never know.


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