We humans do love our rituals. When an extended family gathers for the holidays, familiar traditions promise a comforting respite from an increasingly complex, chaotic world.
Still, realistically, troubles and fears refuse to be left behind. They surface like unwelcome guests. So do resentments and stinging remarks born of deep knowledge. With Thanksgiving on the horizon, you wonder: Beyond the turkey dinner, what else is going to be on the menu?
Playwright Stephen Karam explores the intricate relationships within a family and the toll of modern life in “The Humans,” a play that is often funny yet resonantly unsettling. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for drama and winner of the 2016 best play Tony Award, the play will embark on a national tour next month. But South Florida already has a homegrown production at GableStage, where director Joseph Adler and a superb cast are exploring the love and pain that coexist within a family – and within each of us.
Adler earlier presented Karam’s “Speech and Debate” and “Sons of the Prophet” (also a Pulitzer finalist) at GableStage. In his intricately honed production of “The Humans,” the director has guided his six actors to performances that clearly convey the emotions surging beneath the dialogue. The portrayals are richly specific yet, in their depiction of the fears that too often plague us, unnervingly universal.
“The Humans” plays out in a noticeably odd Chinatown apartment in Manhattan (the stark, nearly empty apartment with its bad feng shui is by Lyle Baskin). Cobbled together from a small ground-floor apartment and the basement apartment below it, the upper level (where the bathroom is) and lower one (which has the kitchen) are connected by a spiral staircase.
That’s fine for the apartment’s brand-new occupants, aspiring composer Brigid Blake (Diana Garle) and her social work student boyfriend Richard Saad (Alex Alvarez), who have just moved in together. But just how, you wonder, will they get Brigid’s paternal grandmother Fiona “Momo” Blake (Carol Caselle) and her wheelchair down to dinner and up to the bathroom?
Momo, who suffers from dementia and has the exceedingly pale look of one not long for this world, has been brought in from the family’s home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, by her son Erik (Michael Gioia) and daughter-in-law Deidre (Elizabeth Dimon). Erik has spent most of his working life as the maintenance guy and equipment manager at a private school. His devoutly Catholic wife has been an office manager for more than 40 years.Yet their “golden” years are proving to be anything but rewarding, and both seem jittery.
Brigid’s older sister Aimee (Meredith Bartmon) has come in from Philadelphia, where her bosses have informed her that her days as an attorney with their firm are numbered. Her ulcerative colitis is getting much worse, and her longtime love has a new girlfriend and zero interest in getting back together, as she makes plain in a painful holiday phone call. On this Thanksgiving, gratitude for blessings is not – understandably – uppermost in her mind.
Because the truck carrying Brigid and Richard’s furniture hasn’t made it to Chinatown yet, this holiday dinner is hardly a fancy feast. Served on a long, presumably rented table covered with a fall leaf-bedecked plastic cloth, with the food on paper plates, the Blake family’s dinner is modest indeed. But the truths that surface, the way the actors remain captivating even in the smallest moments of Karam’s 90-minute play? That’s a dramatic banquet.
Dimon, Caselle and Alvarez are all Carbonell Award-winning actors. In “The Humans,” they and Gioia, Bartmon and Garle are all doing award-caliber work.
Gioia is powerful and mysterious as a man haunted by his mistakes and fears. Dimon is warm, steadfast and troubled as a woman who turns to food for comfort as life refuses to play out the way she hoped it would. Caselle is utterly convincing as Momo, whose brain has betrayed her. Alvarez radiates comfort as a guy who soon won’t have to worry about money. Garle conveys the struggle of a young artist trying to make ends meet in low-paying jobs, as well as the resentment she feels over having had to take out crippling student loans. As Aimee, Bartmon shares Deidre’s warmth, and she turns that awkward phone conversation with Aimee’s ex into one of the most agonizing yet moving moments in the play.
The work by GableStage’s design team – Baskin, lighting designer Jeff Quinn, costume designer Ellis Tillman and sound/music designer Matt Corey, who supplies the unnerving sounds that make the odd apartment seem more than a little haunted – is uniformly excellent. So are the staging and performances in “The Humans,” easily a highlight of South Florida’s fall theater season.
‘The Humans’ by Stephen Karam, GableStage in the Biltmore Hotel, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, through Nov. 5. Cost:$42-$60; 305-445-1119 or www.gablestage.org.
Revivals are hot on Broadway these days with “CATS”and “Hello, Dolly!“once again gracing the Great White Way. There is a certain nostalgia in taking a second or even third viewing of a belove..
What happens when urban dance style meets classical music? We’ll find out when Brooklyn-based hip-hop dance troupe Decadancetheater takes the stage, backed by Miami’s own experimental classic..
“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..
If even a modicum of redemption can be forged from the hellish after-effects of gun violence, we must listen to the communities most affected by the violence. To this end, “Trigger,” a hip-ho..
Celebrating 35 years is an amazing achievement for any dance company in Miami, but especially one founded in a decade better known for its ties to drugs than to the arts. Momentum Dance Compa..
For Tigertail Productions, April is the month of fire. Like their WATER Festival in 2016, this month’s FIRE Festival celebrates a single element in multiple art forms, including dance, visual..
During the month of April the organizers of the seventh iteration of the O Miami Poetry Festival intend every resident of Miami Dade county to encounter a poem or – even better – write one! An..
As the “home-grown” sweetheart of Miami City Ballet, Patricia Delgado is having her final performances this season before leaving the city and the company she loves to move to New York City.H..
Even people who can’t find Argentina on a map and believe tangos only happen in Paris know La Cumparsita’s iconic four beat opening. Like a bar’s last call, La Cumparsita tells tango dancers ..
Miami City Ballet will conclude its season this week with a rich selection of repertory pieces: two from Balanchine, in very expressive but distinct modes, and one from modern-dance master Pa..
Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..
Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..
In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..
Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..
In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..
From singers like Joan Baez to poets like Maya Angelou to anonymous knitters of pink pussy hats, creative women have played an essential role in this country as agitators and activists. Likew..
When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) takes the stage this weekend, it will present a program rich in the cultural milieu of Miami. Co-founders Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra i..
It is an awe-inspiring experience to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers perform. They are well trained dancers, athletes and artists. Not often known is that some of the dance..
Back for an 8th season in Miami, the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater packs the house every year. With Liberty City hometown hero Robert Battle in his fifth year, we have many rea..
Awash in sunlight, around 50 women stand in a circle on the rooftop performance space of Casa Gaia in Old Havana, Cuba, as part of a belly-dance festival. Biodanza facilitator Karen Rodríguez..
Choreographer Jeanguy Saintus works primarily from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but his creative work has global appeal. He is a pioneering artist who blends Haiti’s traditional music and dance alo..
New life for a legacy ballet—a veritable choreographer-magnet—created a great buzz about Miami City Ballet’s third program this season. But at the Arsht Center for the Performing ..
Who doesn’t delight in fairies? Miami City Ballet, for the success of its third program of the season, is certainly banking on one. And, instead of wielding a magic wand, she comes eager to p..
Transgendered performance artist Scott Turner Schofield is a collector of stories. Growing up in the South, the tales that were told about the gay and trans community were the ugliest kind of..
The Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is giving experimental dancer-choreographer Lazaro Godoy the opportunity to interweave his visual arts and performance passions in ArMOUR, a multimedi..
The Aspen Santa Fe Ballet artistic director Tom Mossbrucker and executive director Jean-Philippe Malaty have thrilled audiences world wide with stimulating and exciting performances, and Miam..
The future came a long time ago. That impression arose in two forward-pointing yet decades-old company premieres on Miami City Ballet’s second program of the season. In the opening performanc..
Ira Sullivan has been a musician for a long time. His father, part of a large musical family, was in the restaurant business. But he played trumpet for fun and stored his horn behind the couch, Su..
The music of Thelonious Monk has been a source of endless fascination and with good reason. Monk’s universe has its own laws. Beautifully constructed and quirky, soulful but also paced by br..
The first time the Amernet performed “The Seven Last Words of Christ” during Holy Week – the week leading up to Easter -- the string quartet played in darkness. Just hours before, cellist Jas..
Drummer Dafnis Prieto and pianist Omar Sosa closed this year’s Global Cuba Fest at the Light Box in Wynwood, Miami, with shows on Friday and Saturday, March 16-17 that suggested a sort of mus..
Mention flamenco and the immediate associations are with dancing, singing and the guitar. The piano has a rather tentative history in flamenco. While some scholars include the instrument in p..
The ancient Japanese art of Taiko drumming comes to Miami this Friday, with Tao: Drum Heart, which premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and has gone on to tour internationally, getting ..
It’s not by chance that the music of Cuban drummer, composer, educator and bandleader Dafnis Prieto unfolds with such purpose. An accidental immigrant in 1999 — he was living with ..
In the music of Las Cafeteras and Orkesta Mendoza, presented by Fundarte at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center Saturday, the border is no place for walls but rather, a moveable feast. ..
Performance Hall at New World Center was packed Saturday, Feb. 3 for the New Work program, which NWS conductor and artistic director Michael Tilson Thomas introduced as “one of the more adve..
"Nosotros sentimos, y pensamos que Jennifer y Carlos sienten igual, que Miami finalmente ha llegado a posicionarse como una verdadera ciudad cultural donde continuamente se presentan compañías imp..
El grupo de danza contemporánea Brazzdance dirigido por su fundador, el coreógrafo Augusto Soledade, se presentó el sábado 31 de marzo en el Carnival Studio Theatre del Arsht Center de Miami...
La undécima edición del Flamenco Festival que se desarrolló del jueves 8 al domingo 11 de marzo en el Arsht Center resultó ser un hermoso reencuentro con el Ballet Nacional de España (BNE), u..
Arts Ballet Theatre of Florida (ABTF) y su escuela de ballet adjunta, ambas bajo la dirección de Vladimir Issaev, se encuentran por estos días entregadas de lleno a la celebración del bicente..
El lugar privilegiado que ocupa Miami hoy en día en el mundo de la danza no tiene discusión. Además de contar con una vibrante oferta local de proyección internacional que dura todo el año y ..
Después de una serie de actuaciones muy exitosas en varias ciudades del Este del país, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) llega a Miami para ofrecer seis presentaciones del jueves 22 ..
La ofensiva espontánea protagonizada por BalletBoyz y Cie. Herve Koubi el fin de semana pasado en teatros de Fort Laudedarle y Miami, con dos propuestas artísticas absolutamente fuera de seri..
La atracción principal del tercer programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) que se presentó el fin de semana pasado en el Arsht Center fue el estreno mundial de One Line ..
Llegados en vuelo directo desde Inglaterra, BalletBoyz (Premio Nacional de Danza 2013 a la Mejor Compañía Independiente) ofrecerá el sábado 10 de febrero una función patrocinada por Culture Shock ..