On Thursday, April 29, the Hinman Production Company (HPC) premiered “The Humans,” a contemporary and relatable play about family dynamics. A one-act play written by Stephen Karam, “The Humans” was originally performed on Broadway in 2016 and has since received many accolades, including the 2016 Tony Award for best play.
While the play differs in format from how it was originally performed because of the pandemic, HPC remained true to its roots with relatable characters and family dynamics. “The Humans” is set in a Chinatown apartment on Thanksgiving Day and exposes the inner workings of the Blake family. Each one of the six characters is showcased in a box on the screen and throughout the play, they all disappear and pop back up when it is their time to speak. The format gives an ode to the original set that appeared as an open-front dollhouse, with multiple levels.
Samantha Carroll, a sophomore majoring in philosophy, politics and law, directed the show and wrote about having to navigate a virtual format.
“Directing has been really challenging in the virtual format, but I’m so proud of my creative team and how we overcame the obstacles we faced,” Carroll wrote. “While I definitely prefer live theatre, this has been such a useful learning experience!”
Each one of the characters is easy to identify and relate with yourself, or one of your family members. The parents, Erik and Dierdre, alongside the grandmother Momo, come to visit their daughters Aimee and Brigid, along with Brigid’s boyfriend Richard. From the start the interactions are a bit awkward and a sense of omission is in the air — Dierdre is unhappy that Brigid and Richard aren’t married and Aimee is unhappy because she and her girlfriend broke up. All of this occurs while simultaneously, the upstairs neighbor makes loud thumping noises and Momo, who has dementia, keeps having unpredictable outbursts. As dinner continues and more alcohol is poured, the interactions sway between shallow pleasantries and brutally honest stories about each one of their lives. Erik finally comes clean about being fired from his job for having an affair with a co-worker. This is a life-changing moment for each one of the family members who are all in very different stages of life.
“Secrets are revealed, long time disagreements are reignited and lifelong fears are faced, all while watching over the family’s dementia-ridden grandmother,” Carroll wrote. “This play shows characters experiencing the life events we, as humans, fear the most — each in different ways. Will the Blakes ever sees one another the way they did before this dinner?”
In the end, “The Humans” navigates life circumstances, individual personality and ultimately how difficult it can be to remain tethered to one’s family. Although the exact details of the Blake family dinner might not be exactly relatable to all viewers, hectic family dinners are something many of us can relate to. HPC was able to remain true to this while navigating an all virtual format.
“A big takeaway is to acknowledge the role fear plays in your life,” Carroll wrote. “Especially after such a challenging year, it’s important to face what you may be feeling.”
“The Humans” is available for viewing on the Hinman Production Company YouTube channel.