Enigmatic “The Humans” At The Rep- This Ain’t Your Arthur Miller Family Drama

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Brian Dykstra, Lauren Marcus and Fajer Kaisi in a scene from “The Humans” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

After the first week-end of the Tony winning drama, “The Humans,” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis- the final moments have been the buzzword among those who’ve seen it. What did it mean? What the hell just happened? In a play fraught with symbolism, it was just another piece in fitting together this unusual family drama.

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The Blake clan assemble for Thanksgiving in the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of “The Humans.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Loud, disturbing noises punctuate the new new ground floor apartment of newly engaged Brigid Blake and Richard Saad. Passed off as a Chinese lady in the apartment above who is into weights- no one really believes it- on stage or in the audience. Not unlike the jarring factory whistle in “Sweeney Todd,” it’s a constant reminder that we’re in for a bumpy Thanksgiving night. Add other assorted noises blamed on someone using the laundry room and the frequent blackouts in certain rooms of the spacious apartment and you get the feeling that these are perhaps metaphors for this functioning dysfunctional family.

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Lauen Marcus and Fajer Kaisi prepare the peppermint pig during “The Humans” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Lauren Marcus and Fajer Kaisi are the young couple who, despite a calm demeanor, have some tensions brewing in their life and trepidation on how the evening is headed. Brian Dykstra is the patriarch of the Blake clan, Erik. He’s the one who is perhaps holding the biggest secret which leads to the big reveal and the perplexing final moments of “The Humans.” Carol Schultz is his long suffering yet occasionally snippy wife, Deirdre, Kathleen Wise is their other daughter, Aimee, who has gone through a recent break up and the cast is completed with a stunning performance from Darrie Lawrence as Erik’s mother, “Momo,” who is mostly confined to a wheelchair.

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Brian Dykstra and Darrie Lawrence in a moment from the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis production of “The Humans.” Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

Rep Artistic Director, Steven Woolf, has directed with a masterful touch in bringing out the nuances in the troubled family while maintaining the spirit of a classic family drama. The terrific dialogue over dialogue, in one sequence in particular, on the two level set is remarkable. An almost casual conversation between Erik and Richard over Erik’s bizarre dreams may lead, in part, to the unusual finale that everyone is fixated on. Does it reference his allusion to a tunnel or is it a sign of something more dire?

The Gianni Downs double decker set is a marvel. Even the vast spaces seem almost too confined for this small family. Rob Denton’s lights play a significant role and Rusty Wandall’s sound design adds the ominous touch. Dorothy Marshall Englis has fashioned a wonderful costume design. The Stephen Karam script is nothing if not fascinating. Far from traditional, it sometimes smacks you in the face with symbolic overtones and at other times revels in the spoken word of a truly great script. Nothing appears to be just what it seems and we’re constantly reminded of how much the building has become another character. In an interview in the program, Karam talks about fears- mainly following the 9-11 crisis. So fears of the outside world and fears within the family all take shape as we unravel the humanity of “The Humans.”

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The cast of “The Humans” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Photo: Jerry Naunheim, Jr.

“The Humans” plays at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Mainstage through March 4th. You may love it, you may hat it- but you’ll find it fascinating and will undoubtedly join the discussion about the final sequence. Give the Rep a call at 314-968-4925 for tickets or more information.

 

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