Review: The Humans at Capital Stage

Pour one out for these humans, they’re going through a lot.

Pour one out for these humans, they’re going through a lot.

Photo courtesy of Charr Crail

Showtimes: Wed 7pm, Thu 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm, Tue 7pm; Through 11/17; $27-$44; Capital Stage, 2215 J St., (916) 995-5464,
Rated 5.0

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, Capital Stage’s choice of Stephen Karam’s The Humans can get everyone worrying about their next family dinner a month ahead of time. Thanks to the direction of Michael Stevenson, it seems as realistic as if it were reality TV and not a scripted play.

The three generations of the Blake family are gathering for Thanksgiving dinner at the new apartment of daughter Brigid (Karen Vance), who has just set up housekeeping with boyfriend Richard (Damien Seperi). As everyone begins drinking, secrets are revealed, tears are shed and emotions run high.

Everyone has their problems. Daughter Aimee (Kristine David) has broken up with her long-time girlfriend, Brigid is about to be fired, father Erik (Matt K. Miller) has secrets and his wife Deirdre (Jamie Jones) is struggling with eating problems.

One of the most outstanding performances is Janet Motenko, as the grandmother, “Momo,” who has dementia and spends the evening talking gibberish or napping. “This is one of her bad days,” Erik explains.

Motenko’s performance is impeccable, and the relationship between the other family members and Momo is beautiful to watch. In my favorite scene, Erik simply stands and watches his mother nap, while the actual scene plays elsewhere. But the look on Erik’s face is so beautiful, showing a sense of concern, frustration and love that anyone who has a loved one with dementia knows.

This is a deceptively simple play with no hysterics, no name calling—just a family revealing its weaknesses and struggling with how to carry on. It is both entertaining yet honest, with a surprising and disturbing conclusion. All in all, an excellent play.