Performing from September 5th to 29th, 2019.
Review by Hannah Yurke.
First off, I thought ‘The Humans’ was phenomenal. Really, really incredible. Here is community theater that equals the quality of professional theater. I came out of it feeling every inch like I’d been a fly on the wall at a dysfunctional family Thanksgiving dinner. Well cast, well staged and convincingly acted. I highly recommend it.
Novato Theater Company is celebrating it’s 100th season, and ‘The Humans’ is the opening play, an apt choice, as a gritty but ultimately sympathetic and highly relatable portrayal of a modern American family and the issues they face. Written by Stephen Karam, it tells the story of the Irish American Blakes, from Pennsylvania, gathered for Thanksgiving in the small and funky new apartment that recent college arts graduate, Brigid Blake, is renting in New York’s Chinatown, with her older boyfriend, a trainee social worker. Visiting for the first time are her older sister, a lawyer; her parents and her grandmother, who is wheelchair bound, and has Alzheimers.
The play has naturalistic dialogue and we watch as passive aggressive, snarky intergenerational family dynamics become increasingly confrontational, fueled by alcohol and discussions about college debt, religion, income, health care, mental health and jobs. Lower middle class, provincial parents marvel at their children’s choices which are driven by their superior educations. Differences and similarities are celebrated, as all come to confront the health and relationship hands they’ve been dealt. As their individual personal stories emerge, the tension becomes almost unbearable. All the while, the old Cantonese woman upstairs appears to be hurling around heavy objects, while the electricity is inconsistent at best. This play throws into relief all the factors that can pull families together, and also divide them. There are moments of great poignancy and ones of dark humor and insight. It does not cast judgment on any one character, but merely observes them collide and interact with each other, like atoms slowly heating up to maximum temperature.
‘The Humans’ was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for drama, and I can see why. However it still needed a strong cast and director to pull it together, and happily, the NVC production succeeded with both. Patrick Nims is an experienced and award winning director, and every single one of the six person cast shone. Since I had the honor of attending the opening night, I was able to partake in the toasts to all the cast and crew, and I can honestly say this was a professional level collaboration of love and dedication with many people volunteering many hours of their time and talent. I strongly recommend seeing this compelling production. Tickets are selling fast, as Novato Theater Company’s reputation is strong. Click here to book your ticket, or your subscription for the whole season.
The company’s mission is to ‘present quality theater to Bay Area audiences and offer theatrical training and mentoring opportunities in a creative and supportive environment for performers of all ages.’ They’re also hosting the Marin Actors Workshop with working actor Terry McGovern on Saturday mornings, for people looking to hone their acting skills. Click here for more information.
Photos by Fred Deneau. With permission by the Novato Theater Company.