Review: The Humans National Tour at Chicago Palace Theatre

Review: The Humans National Tour at Chicago Palace Theatre
The Humans Seattle Repertory Theatre Seattle, Washington November 28, 2017 Photo Credit: Julieta Cervantes

“Humans struggling with how to put one foot in front of the other. That is a timeless question.”

Richard Thomas

One thing we all have in common, rich, poor, black, white, young, old, we are humans and according to Erik Blake (Richard Thomas who you may remember as John-Boy in the CBS television series The Waltons) the dad in the The Humans “is that everyone ends up in the same place.”

Of course, before that time, we all have a whole lot of living to do. It’s that living that Stephen Karam’s piercingly funny, bruisingly honest comedy-drama The Humans is all about.

Karam puts the American middle class family life under the microscope in his beautifully crafted 95-minute piece that brings the angst, anguish and amity of the American family to the table as the Blake family gathers for Thanksgiving dinner.  

The Tony award winning show, heralded in 2016 as “The Best Play of the Year” by The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Record, Time Out New York, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, and The Wrappremiered in 2014 at Chicago’s American Theater Company (ATC) before going to New York, first off-Broadway and then on Broadway.

The show has returned to Chicago in a National Touring Production running in a much larger venue than ATC–Chicago’s Palace Theatre (now through February 11).

Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake brings his Pennsylvania family to celebrate and give thanks at his daughter’s lower Manhattan Chinatown duplex–a dingy two-story conversion with the bathroom on the top floor, and a spiral staircase leading to a windowless basement downstairs.

Their 26-year-old daughter Brigid Blake (Daisy Eagen) has just moved into the rundown apartment with her boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega). Although, the couple thinks the space is wonderful, mom Deirdre (Pamela Reed, best known for her role in the 1990 comedy “Kindergarten Cop”) and dad Erik see the pitfalls and worry about their daughter’s safety among other things.

The Humans Seattle Repertory Theatre Seattle, Washington November 28, 2017 Daisy Eagan and Therese Plaehn. Photo: Julieta Cervante

Also joining the get together is Brigid’s sister Aimee (Therese Plaehn) who has her own set of problems after just being dumped by her longtime girlfriend, about to lose her job as a lawyer due to missing so many days of work due to her ulcerative colitis for which she has learned she’ll need a colostomy.

Then there’s Momo with a spot-on performance from Lauren Klein, (who played the same role on Broadway), the grandmother, suffering from advanced Alzheimer’s and having a “bad” day. 

The parents dealing with the care of Momo, the loss of Richard’s job, money problems, infidelity and more bring their own set of problems to the table. First coaxed, then shoved, the tensions build to a crescendo with Erik commenting that “Doing life twice sounds like the only thing worse than doing it once.”

As darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex, and eerie things start to go bump in the night, the Blake clan’s deepest fears and greatest follies are laid bare. 

In addition to the first-class cast, the tour features the entire creative team from the Broadway production, led by Tony Award-winning director Joe Mantello and including Tony Award-winning scenic designer David Zinn, costume designer Sarah Laux, lighting designer Justin Townsend and sound designer Fitz Patton.

Although, the show may sound dark, it is peppered with humor and insight giving us all moments with which we can relate as fellow humans.

Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or

When: now through February 11

Running time: 95 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $25-$98

Rating: 4 stars

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