While Broadway has several long-running musicals continuing to extend their impressive runs these days, a rarer accomplishment is when a play has an extended run on Broadway and complete its entire run with the original cast. Stephen Karam’s "The Humans", which was produced on Broadway in 2016, was one of the most successful plays in New York in recent years because of its award-winning runs as both an off-Broadway play and on Broadway.
"The Humans" play is about the middle-class Scranton, Pennsylvania Blake family that spends its first Thanksgiving away from home at the Chinatown apartment of Brigid, the younger of two daughters. The occasion brings out a generational clash between the parents and their children, both of whom have rejected the family’s working class values and religious roots. These changing family dynamics have deeply disappointed their parents, and they’re not afraid to discuss their discontents with their children. Unsurprisingly, these issues come to a head over the course of the holiday.
"The Humans" play was written by Stephen Karam (a native of Scranton) – who wrote the award-winning 2012 off-Broadway play "Sons of the Prophet" – his first play to be produced on Broadway. The Humans was directed by two-time Tony Award winning actor/director Joe Mantello, who has directed musicals like "Wicked" and "Assassins" as well as plays like "Three Days of Rain", "Other Desert Cities", and "Blackbird".
The set of "The Humans". Photo by Sarah Krulwich
One of the most talked-about aspects of "The Humans" play is how precisely the set design duplicates the two floors of Brigid’s street-level, nearly furniture-less Lower Manhattan apartment – both visually and (perhaps even more impressively) aurally, as the Pennsylvania parents used to small-town quiet are haunted by the noise of New York’s streets. David Zinn would go on to win the Tony Award for Best Scenic Design in a Play.
Like other popular family dramas, "The Humans" on Broadway can credit much of its success to its stellar cast that was with the production for the entire New York run. The cast featured Jayne Houdyshell as mother Deirdre, Reed Birney as father Erik, Cassie Beck as daughter Aimee, Lauren Klein as Fiona (the grandmother, also called “Momo”), Sarah Steele as Brigid, and Arian Moayed as Brigid's boyfriend, Richard.
"The Humans" play first appeared off-Broadway at the 425-seat Laura Pels Theatre on 46th Street in October 2015, and then moved two blocks south to Broadway to the Helen Hayes Theatre in January 2016. Even more impressively, "The Humans" on Broadway also outgrew the 597-seat Helen Hayes Theatre and upgraded to the 1079-seat Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre after a two-week break in the summer of 2016. "The Humans" play remained at the Schoenfeld Theatre until it closed on January 15, 2017, playing for more than 400 performances combined across its three venues. But that is still not the end of the road for The Humans – a national tour of the play will launch at the Seattle Repertory Theatre in November 2017. "The Humans" Broadway may be done for now, but "The Humans" play has a long road remaining.
While "The Humans" has ended its Broadway production, it is very likely that its popularity, critical acclaim, and awards success will continue to give the play life even beyond its national tour. Because of its universal theme of a family facing generational changes, "The Humans" the play will probably become a favorite for university and community theater productions once the rights are made available.
Seen "The Humans"? How about on Broadway? Let us know in the comments below!