Halloween may be the spookiest time of the year but, as playwright Stephen Karam proves in “The Humans,” any time can be scary when it comes to family dinners. And while the mysterious sounds that punctuate a family’s feast in a Manhattan apartment are certainly unusual, the real drama unfolds in the wonderfully rich, utterly recognizable dialogue that arises as the table is set and dinner is served. The 2016 Tony-winning “Humans” opens Jan. 30 and stars some familiar faces, like “Parks and Recreation’s” Pamela Reed.
The play takes audiences into the new home of Brigid Blake and her boyfriend, Richard, as they welcome Brigid’s parents, grandmother and sister from Pennsylvania for a holiday dinner. As at most family gatherings, the conversation covers a lot of territory, from personal woes and achievements to worry about the state of the world.
“Brigid is very much her mother’s daughter, as much as she would not want to admit that,” says actress Daisy Eagan, who earned a Tony Award for her performance in “The Secret Garden.” Still living among unopened boxes and eager for her family to like her boyfriend, Brigid has a lot on her plate. “She wants the night to go perfectly,” Eagan says. “She wants to be seen as an adult and as a New Yorker. I think she loves her family fiercely, but she’s at that age where she desperately wants to seem separate from them.”
“The Humans” is directed by Tony winner and Rockford native Joe Mantello, who doesn’t take on just any project. “I have been offered wonderful plays that have gone on to great success, but I passed on them because I was not the best person for the job,” he says. “This script arrived out of the blue in an email from Stephen [Karam]. I was on a bit of a break and I planned to read it later, but my curiosity got the best of me. I looked at the cast of characters [and] the description of the apartment and was so drawn in that I sat down and read it that very moment. I emailed back saying, ‘I’ll do this play with you anywhere, anytime.’ ”
Jan. 30-Feb. 11, Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph. For tickets ($25-$98), visit Broadway inchicago.com
Pictured at top: Richard Thomas, Therese Plaehn, Pamela Reed, Lauren Klein, Daisy Eagan and Luis Vega in “The Humans” | Photo by Julieta Cervantes