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.
Carlotta Grisi, the legendary ballerina who originated the role of Giselle in 19th-century Paris, must be smiling down on Lauren Fadeley from dance heaven.Portraying the eponymous heroi..
On Saturday, October 22 the dance community unites on one stage to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of New World School of the Arts and its founding dean of dance, Daniel Lewis, in a program o..
Celebrated Zimbabwe-born, Brooklyn-based dancer/choreographer Nora Chipaumire returns to Miami for a third time with her latest work, Portrait of Myself as My Father. Presented this week by M..
One of the highlights of Tigertail’s fall season, The Way You Look (at me) Tonight comes to the Miami stage this weekend. It runs Friday and Saturday, October 14-15 at the Miami Dade County A..
On Sunday, September 18, a small crowd gathered on the beach around 92nd Street and Collins Avenue in Surfside. With the backdrop of a perfectly clear blue sky, sweltering sun, and endless oc..
The fist view of Titus Kaphar’s The Vesper Project at the Lowe Museum of the University of Miami elicits questions: What catastrophe happened here? What awful force created this destruction? ..
For its 31st season Miami City Ballet will serve up a hearty and flavorful dance sandwich. Held together by the bread-and-butter basics of a Romantic heirloom and repertory standards, in the ..
“Of course you can be a prince on stage, but you can be an animal as well? Can you move like a snake, move like a tiger?” With that, a wiry, energized Miao Zong -- guest choreographer with Ar..
When Kathryn Garcia, MDC Live Arts executive director, took the helm at the organization 5 years ago, she revitalized the 26-year-old organization and strengthened its commitment to not only ..
Daniel Lewis and Sheila Womble sit at cafe in Coral Gables. Both are excited to speak on behalf of Arts for Learning, the encompassing and growing organization they are passionate about. ..
On the surface, rising sea levels and dance seem to be worlds apart. Unless you’re Marissa Alma Nick, who grew up in Surfside -- going to the beach and watching such movies as Waterworld and..
Artburst recently sat down with Miami City Ballet dancer, Nathalia Arja, on a Friday afternoon at the MCB studios. Bubbly and relaxed in pale blue leotard and hair drawn tight in a bun, Arja discu..
If there is a place in Miami where original work can get its due – particularly in the children's theater genre – Miami Theater Center in Miami Shores is the space. Stephanie Ansin, co-founde..
Siempre Flamenco’s Festival de Cante opened Friday, Sept. 2 at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater to a small but generous audience, who responded warmly to singers Nano de Jerez, Migu..
This September, the International Ballet Festival of Miami celebrates its 21st year. Companies from around the world will converge in Miami, giving local audiences a chance to see top-class b..
DanceAfrica, a celebration of African dance and culture, appears annually in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Last seen in Miami in 1997, the festival returns this year thanks to the ef..
This month, Sophia Michahelles and Alex Kahn from Processional Arts Workshop (PAW) will light up Vizcaya’s grounds with giant fantastical lanterns and moving sculptures. PAW’s experiential an..
It’s perhaps the most exotic dance music to hit Miami in recent memory: contradance -- it’s Americana, the real thing, a far more sophisticated version of the square-dancing you may remember ..
Juan Carlos Lérida’s performance Bailografía, part of the seventh season of the Out in the Tropics festival, is not the story of a man’s trajectory as a flamenco performer over the course of ..
Okay, it may still be a stretch to call Miami the artsy-est city in the United States as some news outlets have proclaimed. But we are no longer that sleepy provincial town, even in summer. ..
Ballet has long held a special place in Cuban communities -- both in Cuba and in Miami. The National Ballet of Cuba has a reputation of being one of the foremost ballet companies in the world..
Imagine, it’s February 7, 2013, and you’re leaving Miami after a month-long visit with family and friends, resuming your dance career in Israel. At MIA, TSA agents repeatedly search and inter..
There aren't many festivals that can boast true diversity in their lineup, but Out in the Tropics has made that its mission and it is arguably one of the best. In its seventh year and pr..
This Thursday, after 13 years of incubation, Miami dancer and filmmaker Tiffany “Hanan” Madera’s documentary Havana Habibi will debut on the big screen. A collaboration between Madera and Bro..
Ilisa Rosal founded Ballet Flamenco La Rosa in 1985 and the company soon cultivated a renowned reputation for presenting flamenco, in all its forms, to local, national and international audie..
Singer and songwriter La Flaka, The Skinny One, aka Jessica Cánovas, was born and raised in Triana, a historic neighborhood of Sevilla, Spain, surrounded by flamenco music and dance. La Flaka..
Joffrey Ballet choreographer, dancer and Hollywood, Fla., native Edward "Eddie" Stierle will return to South Florida with Lacrymosa, performed by Dance Now! Miami this Thursday through Friday..
People often imagine new artwork is the product of the solitary artist genius slaving away in lonely studios. The South Florida Symphony’s 20th anniversary program foregrounds a different vis..
At an age when many are winding down their working lives, Ignacio Berroa eagerly anticipates a new stage in his career. It would be understandable if the 64-year-old drummer, recognized a..
We know it’s the holiday season when trees light up, menorah candles start to burn, ubiquitous Christmas carols pipe through drugstores, “The Nutcracker” plays on every stage – and in recent ..
Late last year, on Dec. 20, 2016, Romero Britto and Mark Bryn hosted the Great Artists Series Cocktail Reception at the Britto Fine Art Gallery to celebrate the legendary impresaria, Judy Dru..
Everyone remembers a lost weekend, binge reading a novel whose ending had to wait because the body just gave out. No matter how compelling the story somewhere around the 30th hour the brain s..
Globalization has produced many stories —not all inspiring. But having a Pakistani ensemble become a worldwide sensation by playing Paul Desmond’s immortal “Take Five,” which pianist Da..
When the management of New York’s iconic Apollo Theater approached drummer Gregg Field last year about organizing a concert there in honor of the 100th anniversary of Ella Fitzgerald’s birth..
They’ve opened a Chanel fashion show in Havana and been featured in Beyoncé’s visual album for “Lemonade.” The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has danced to their music. Their Florida debu..
There are few artists who have had the impact in their disciplines that guitarist Paco De Lucía had in flamenco. There is a before-and-after De Lucía in flamenco. He expanded the harmonic voc..
El segundo programa de la temporada 2017-2018 del Miami City Ballet (MCB) dedicado a los 100 años del nacimiento de Jerome Robbins (1918-1998), el gran coreógrafo norteamericano que triunfó ..
2017 fue un buen año para la danza en Miami. El Flamenco Festival nos permitió volver a ver a Jesús Carmona, el Internacional Ballet Festival of Miami (IBFM) sobrevivió al huracán Irma, Dance..
El Miami City Ballet (MCB) presentó por fin en el Arsht Center la nueva producción de su gran espectáculo navideño, el “Cascanueces” de Tchaikovsky y Balanchine, ahora con diseños origin..
La tradicional temporada de Cascanueces del Miami City Ballet (MCB) tendrá algo nuevo este año. La compañía que dirige Lourdes López ha decidido renovar los diseños de la superproducción que..
El programa que Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) presentó el sábado pasado en su exitoso debut como compañía en residencia del South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center (SMDCAC) y a solo ..
Hay pocos artistas que han tenido el impacto en sus disciplinas como el guitarrista Paco De Lucía tuvo en flamenco. En este género, hay un antes y después de De Lucía. Expandió el vocabul..
Dance NOW! Miami, la Florida Dance Education Organization (FDEO), Miami Dance Futures y la New World School of the Arts (NWSA) colaboraron el fin de semana pasado para presentar la Daniel Lew..
Esta es una gran noticia para el público amante del ballet en Miami. Tras un paréntesis de diez años en los que solo nos visitó de manera esporádica, la Primera Bailarina mexicana Katia Carra..
Solo hay que aplicar el concepto “seis grados de separación” a uno de los artistas que se han presentado en las Galas de Estrellas del Festival Internacional de Ballet de Miami (IBFM por sus ..