You may have noticed a lot more posts about theatrical productions happening at the Kennedy Center from the past month. There’s good reason for that – 18 months ago when the touring production of Hamilton was announced to be coming to the Kennedy Center, one of the things that was also announced was that the only way to guarantee tickets to the show ahead of time was to have a season plan for the 2017-18 theatrical season. I knew my mom and aunt had season plans, and so decided to see if I could glom on to their plan, and that way guarantee I would see Hamilton. And that’s exactly what happened.
So the good news (jealousy-inducing news?) is that I have a ticket to Hamilton already. It is literally in my home right now, and sometimes I worry about what would happen if a bad person with no scruples saw it and took it. Of course, it’s in an envelope behind other tickets, but never mind that. The point is, I’m going to see Hamilton, and as a side effect, I’ve gotten to see a few other shows – “An American in Paris” and “On Your Feet” among them. The Kennedy Center is giving me a nice long (unintentional) maternity leave with shows too (since Hamilton doesn’t arrive until June), and as a cap to the shows I’ve seen the last few weeks, I got one last play which it turns out was really good. It was “The Humans”.
I had no idea about what to expect going in except for the very brief summary of the show that was given on the Kennedy Center website – “uproarious, hopeful, and heartbreaking play takes place over the course of a family dinner on Thanksgiving”. So family-oriented, and modern, and a comedy. The Boy found a glowing review in the Washington Post before I saw it, so I knew it was meant to be good, but really – that was it. A straight play about a family at Thanksgiving dinner that was meant to be good. That’s all I got.
It turned out to be all those things, and surprisingly relate-able. A young woman in her 30s and her boyfriend have just moved in to a crappy ground level New York City apartment – but two floors! – and are playing the hosts for Thanksgiving. Older sister is having health issues, relationship issues, job issues, and is holding herself together surprisingly well. Grandma is in the saddest part of late-stage dementia where there are occasional glimmers of who she used to be, but it’s all mirages at this point. And mom and dad are…really good at pretending that everything is ok.
If you are a young professional in America a this point – if you’re the kind of person who can afford to go to the theater, and chooses a play like this instead of a touring musical – chances are you will understand and have similar experiences to what goes on. Since that’s me, I related to the younger characters, and recognized the sort of things the parents did and what was going on with the Grandmother. My aunt, who was also at the show, enjoyed it less. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe she felt disconnected from the parents struggles. Or didn’t relate to the younger generation. My mom did like the show, but I think a big part of that was seeing herself in the challenges of caring for an elderly parent.
The show won a number of Tonys, including best play, so it’s definitely more than me, my mom and the Washington Post who think it’s good. It gets you thinking about generational differences, aspirations, and how change is inevitable. On top of all that, it’s got a fascinating set that lets you see what happens on both stories of the apartment at once. So if you’re looking for something a little more modern, more thought-provoking, seeing The Humans at the Kennedy Center (or wherever it is on tour next) is a great choice.
Details: The Humans by Stephen Karam, at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC, through January 28. Lots more cities through summer 2018.