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The Humans

Members say: Great acting, Absorbing, Great writing, Intelligent, Thought-provoking
75 reviews
1359 reviews

Roundabout Theatre Company's Off-Broadway hit production transferred to Broadway, where it won four 2016 Tony Awards including Best Play. Stephen Karam's ghost story/thriller explores the way we humans cope with our biggest fears.

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Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake has brought his Pennsylvania family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter’s apartment in lower Manhattan. As darkness falls outside the ramshackle pre-war duplex, eerie things start to go bump in the night. Soon, family tensions reach a boiling point…and the hilarity, heart and horrors of the Blake clan are exposed. A look at the mysteries of the modern American family, this new play seeks to remind us that we all have our fears, but we don’t have to face them alone. Two-time Tony Award winner Joe Mantello directs.


Reviews (1434)

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

The New York Times

"The title may sound generic, but there’s nothing blurry about Mr. Karam’s scorching drama. Drawn in subtle but indelible strokes, Mr. Karam’s play might almost qualify as deep-delving reportage, so clearly does it illuminate the current, tremor-ridden landscape of contemporary America...The finest new play of the Broadway season so far." Full Review


"Under Mantello's sensitive direction, the whole production has kept up an aura of lingering dread. In fact, the performances seem sharper in this Broadway transfer...Through brutal realism, Karam presents a family careering toward disaster with little in the way of an evasive action plan. For too many Americans, that situation alone will feel painfully uncanny — so much so that you won't be able to look away." Full Review


"Each and every character is enormously appealing, and Karam takes care to reveal their guarded secrets with great tenderness, just as Mantello’s directorial hand gently advances the play from comedy to tragedy. The revelations of weakness in this close-knit family are not entirely unexpected...The big question, of course, is whether the Blakes can survive after this emotional night. Karam doesn’t make it easy for them — or us." Full Review

New York Post

“It’s amazing what the playwright and director pull off here…It’s often startlingly funny, and keeps an emotional grip on its audience throughout. The ending even adds a whiff of quasisupernatural terror that somehow doesn’t feel out of place…Aside from the sharp, nuanced writing, credit must go to the ensemble...They’re like the show as a whole, moving stealthily and laying waste to your heart.“ Full Review

Time Out New York

"'The Humans' is just as funny, just as moving and just as sneakily unsettling in its new Broadway incarnation, and retains its essential intimacy...'The Humans' is the kind of show that we must usually go Off Broadway to see: a thoughtful new play by a young American writer, with a cast of expert local actors. With no slight intended to the lions and the witches and the extravagant wardrobes: It's good to see 'The Humans' on Broadway, too." Full Review

The Guardian (UK)

"A funny, mournful, richly detailed and deeply humane study of a beleaguered family celebrating Thanksgiving dinner in a tumbledown Chinatown apartment...'The Humans,' attempts to infuse some of the action with the sense of the surreal and uncanny. These tonal gestures aren’t always effective, particularly as the play suggests that ordinary life offers sufficient horrors without any recourse to the supernatural. But it has, Karam insists, its comforts too." Full Review

DC Theatre Scene

"A production that has become even more timely in its expression of middle class anxieties, but remains most noteworthy for the exquisite performances by some of New York’s finest stage actors...For all the problems the characters face, the actors are superb in communicating an affection and good humor that feels genuine and that draws us in. They do justice to the work of playwright Stephen Karam." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Horror occurs in countless forms and at varying degrees, describing a sweeping range of experiences that define who we are. Perhaps the greatest marvel of the many in 'The Humans,' the outstanding new play at the Helen Hayes, is just how many of these playwright Stephen Karam and director Joe Mantello manage to pack into their fusion-charged 95-minute evening." Full Review

The Wall Street Journal

"'The Humans' is passably well made, or would be were it not for the way in which the author stirs up expectations of a coda on which he fails to deliver...None of the characters does anything that isn’t perfectly obvious, right down to the jokes...No doubt Mr. Karam thinks he’s given us a deeply resonant statement about the Condition of 21st-Century America, but after 95 minutes of unhappy-family chitchat, I left the theater feeling that I’d just spent two whole hours there for no good reason." Full Review

AM New York

"Unapologetically depressing and lacking in narrative. Its pretentious and generic title is also a turnoff. Nevertheless, it makes for a compelling and often terrifying character portrait...The actors deliver vulnerable, truthful performances while also handling simultaneous action on the two-story set, overlapping dialogue and many silent pauses." Full Review

New York Magazine / Vulture

"It is still the most, well, human play I’ve ever seen about fear and disappointment and the attachments that transcend them...When a naturalistic play is working on so many levels (literally, in this case) an odd thing can happen: You can begin to feel that the characters are just going about their lives onstage but that you, in the audience, are acting. At any rate, you may find yourself gasping and yelping and, if you’re the type, crying." Full Review

New York Daily News

"Playwright Stephen Karam takes this familiar, if shop-worn, dramatic framework and transforms it into a 95-minute work that is fresh, funny, piercing and perceptive...Karam has an eye for detail on a near-cellular level, an ear for authentic dialogue and a superlative ability to balance laughter and sorrow. There’s a lot of both here...Joe Mantello’s direction is smart and subtle, making excellent use of the bi-level stage." Full Review

Times Square Chronicles

"I really wanted to like Stephen Karam’s new play 'The Humans'...Sadly, the play left me with the same feelings as the first time and lost me at the same places...Director Joe Mantello gets the most out of his cast and his staging is interesting...My problem with this play is we’ve seen it before in 'Death of a Salesman,' only now we all are the salesman...We learn nothing here, we move forward not a step...I need to feel for these characters and I do not." Full Review


"A smart decision was made to hold on to the exquisitely matched acting ensemble and also the play’s, well, human scale by re-mounting it in the Helen Hayes, the smallest Tony-eligible house. As a result, the play retains its remarkable power as a tale of sorrows veined with silver threads of humor...'The Humans' is tremendously exciting theater, and I remain convinced that you won’t see a better play this season." Full Review

Front Row Center

"They feel as much like a real family with scars and tender spots and grudges and rages as any family I’ve ever met. I’d like to say it is the actors who bring the magic or that it’s all on the page or that the director’s deft sense of pacing does the job. But, hell, there’s lots of credit to go around. If you can get a ticket grab it. This is one of those terrific shows you will spend worthy hours with afterwards. You know, the kind of play that keeps on giving." Full Review


"This outstanding ensemble has settled more deeply into their characters...Karam writes plays that are timely meaningful reflections on the human condition...Karam skillfully establishes the situation and develops the family dynamic with dialogue so real you feel you're eavesdropping. But even Joe Mantello's directorial expertise can't prevent this theatrical platter from coming off as piled somewhat too high with problems. Fortunately, the actors manage to deflect from this." Full Review


"There is so much love, dread, tenderness and brutality in 'The Humans' that it is hard to believe just 90 minutes pass through Stephen Karam’s deeply-felt family tragicomedy thriller...The move to a larger showcase feels right, enlarging the impact without losing the nuances of light and dark...On second viewing, the retelling of bad dreams now seems woven into a richer psychological carpet and the few plot threads that seemed undeveloped now feel beautifully wrought." Full Review

Chicago Tribune

"This talented writer has an innate sense of dramatic tension and theatricality, he also has a rare understanding that you do not need to pop pills for tragedy to bang on your door...A truly remarkable and exceptionally moving play...Mantello, whose work is self-effacing, clearly understands the quality of this play — which represents a whole new level for Karam...Few writers of his generation have achieved anything quite like 'The Humans.'" Full Review

Theatre Reviews Limited

"A deeply engaging play...'The Humans' is a psychological thriller that manages to capture the human condition, its pain, its worries, its culpability, even its hopes in concrete images that often leave the audience spellbound. Joe Mantello’s direction is pure perfection as is David Zinn’s upstairs-downstairs, superego-ego set...The ensemble cast is brilliant – one member better than the next – and with superb craft give each of their characters a gritty authenticity." Full Review


“The comedy-drama is about the randomness of life, which can be terribly cruel, and the comfort received by belonging to a family…I appreciated the way the exemplary actors blended together with a special rapport. Under the masterful direction of Joe Mantello, they displayed the unmistakable rhythms of a family gathering:…‘The Humans’ doesn't suggest tomorrow will be a brighter day. What it does say is that, if we're part of a loving family, we won't have to face the bad stuff alone.” Full Review


"Sensitively staged by Joe Mantello, 'The Humans' transpires in real-time, as one uninterrupted 95-minute act...Karam paints such a dynamic portrait of real life that I could only sit and absorb the insecurities and frailties batted around on stage. 'The Humans' is monumentally affecting, and something for which theatergoers should be oh-so-very thankful." Full Review

Theater Pizzazz

“One of the triumphs of Stephen Karam’s stunning new work is how every one of the 90 or so minutes we spend with the Blakes seem blazingly authentic. Indeed, what happens is both predictable and completely surprising…at times, Karam’s almost supernatural machinations seem better suited to a B-grade horror movie, and ultimately distract from his must-be-heard message.” Full Review

The Associated Press

"The dark comedy opened Thursday at the Helen Hayes Theatre with a terrific cast and an unsentimental look at the way we live today — anxiety-ridden, having little control over our environment or bodies, forever stretched and always a step from the abyss. It is an absolute triumph." Full Review


"Karam’s exquisite family drama, so lovingly transferred to Broadway, is a flawless gem. Director Joe Mantello has deepened the play’s tragicomic elements, capturing the dynamics of a family you may not know but will surely recognize...The cast is superb…Karam’s play is a mirror reflecting our absurd humanity. We laugh and we cry amid the worst challenges. But through it all, there’s family - for better or worse - to cushion the blow." Full Review

The Washington Post

"In a mere 95 minutes, the playwright — bolstered by a whip-smart director, Joe Mantello, and pitch-perfect cast of six — delves into the dynamics of this clan with a gentleness that feels like compassion and a scrupulousness that borders on the forensic…'The Humans' is the sort of impeccably constructed play that should be a regular inhabitant on Broadway, not the occasional, surprising guest." Full Review

See: Critics' Reviews | Members' Reviews
Avg Score

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if you want a slow burn thriller dramedy with a first rate ensemble.

Don't see it if you want a clearly delineated genre.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant, Great writing, Overrated

See it if You like the typical American family play.

Don't see it if You want something a bit different.

Funny, Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Resonant

See it if You want a quality, family story; but beware, this is not "watching a story," this is like looking into a mirror. My favorite all time play!

Don't see it if You like to follow a plot or a story line, or don't enjoy realistic dialogue as a theatre. Every actor gives a stunning performance.

Funny, Great acting, Intelligent, Overrated, Relatable

See it if you want to see why this beat the sublime "Eclipsed" for Best Play at the Tonys. Birney, Houdyshell, and Steele particularly stand out.

Don't see it if you'll be annoyed to leave the theater STILL having no idea HOW this beat Eclipsed. This was good; Eclipsed was SPECTACULAR.

Great acting, Intelligent, Relevant, Strong ensemble

See it if You like realism in your theater and a strong ensemble to tell a kitchen sink story.

Don't see it if You are looking for something with larger political themes or magical methods of storytelling.

Ambitious, Great acting, Intelligent, Great staging

See it if You like family drama. Sort of slice of life-y. a little melodramatic.

Don't see it if You dont like to see September 11 be used as a plot point. You want an even energy among your actors.

Also This felt like an "off" night. I had tickets for this play 3 times and... Read more Read less

Great acting, Relevant, Resonant, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You want to see an amazing ensemble perform sharp material - the clear victor in a Roundabout season filled with celeb-heavy casting.

Don't see it if You like your plays light and fluffy.

Also I saw this off-Broadway (same Roundabout season as Therese Raquin, Noi... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Great acting, Thought-provoking, Profound, Great staging

See it if You live in NYC for a while but not originally from NYC, you enjoy thoughtful plays

Don't see it if you want something light, you don't like family dramas

Great acting, Masterful, Profound, Relevant, Great staging

See it if The most intelligent, humane & heartwrenching play on Broadway at this moment. Flawless staging with impeccible acting make a modern classic

Don't see it if Nothing really goes wrong despite an occassional veering into Irish sentimentality. Ambiguous , rather radical ending may put off some

Funny, Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated

See it if you want to see a TV sitcom live. The story was full of cliches that just should not be all built into one story. Acting was good.

Don't see it if you are looking for a Broadway experience or a musical. You don't want to watch 1 1/2 hours for a story about a family and their issues.

Also I was disappointed. I didn't read any reviews, or know the story line,... Read more Read less

Clever, Profound, Quirky, Relevant, Indulgent

See it if you like family dramas.

Don't see it if you want to watch something uplifting and less relatable.

Absorbing, Intense, Masterful, Relevant, Resonant

See it if You want to see a very relatable play. Highly recommend it around the holidays (saw it on thanksgiving eve).

Don't see it if you want the (assumed) highs and lows of your own family thrown back in your face.

Absorbing, Great writing, Confusing

See it if you're interested in family dramas that detail everyday struggles in a fresh way

Don't see it if you can't stand the idea of listening to a relatively annoying protagonist. One of the characters is fairly obnoxious

Great acting, Disappointing, Overrated, Funny lines, Overall sad

See it if you have survived a difficult holiday with family. The acting and direction are excellent. A lot of events but little plot or resolution.

Don't see it if family drama disturbs you. In spite of its many funny moments the play is about sad people trying to have lives beyond their troubles.

Great acting, Thought-provoking, Relevant, Engaging

See it if you want a realistic and moving drama of the everyday from well-drawn, diverging points of view united by a family bond

Don't see it if 'grown up' themes make you uncomfortable; you're facing a lot of your own familial/generational tensions and want to escape from them

Funny, Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Entertaining

See it if You enjoy family dramas

Don't see it if You prefer musicals or comedies


See it if a poignant/funny play about family,the complexities of love, life's unpredictability, and resilience.Great writing, perfect cast....see it!

Don't see it if do not miss this gem!

Also this play really develops its characters, and makes them relatable, en... Read more Read less

Great acting, Disappointing, Entertaining

See it if you like entertaining family dramas.

Don't see it if you expect it to be the best play of the year, which it isn't.

Resonant, Indulgent, Great writing

See it if you like plays based in reality, are interested in the ways in which family tensions manifest, or are interested in the influence of trauma.

Don't see it if you're looking for a show that moves very quickly, if you prefer something more consistently upbeat, or if you're upset by mentions of 9/11.

Great acting, Disappointing, Cliched, Overrated, Great staging

See it if You like dysfunctional families fighting on thanksgiving

Don't see it if You don't need another dysfunctional family fighting on Thanksgiving. And btw.... who does ?

Absorbing, Exquisite, Great acting, Great writing, Entertaining

See it if You want to see one of the best play ever written. Modern and relate able, real, and haunting.

Don't see it if You want something light and fluffy.

Intelligent, Thought-provoking, Quirky, Refreshing, Riveting

See it if you want to see a play about people that seem real with real issues. And maybe a ghost? With great performances by the cast.

Don't see it if u want more than real life drama in your plays. If an ambiguous thread that's part of the drama is frustrating for you (but great for play)

Great acting, Intelligent, Great writing

See it if You adore great actors in a well written play

Don't see it if if life is already too depressing

Great acting, Masterful, Riveting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if want to see the best straight play of the last season, many will identify with the worst thanksgiving dinner ever

Don't see it if don't want to see a well written play about a family with many issues to deal with.

Intelligent, Intense, Great writing, Hilarious, Shattering

See it if You like plays, family plays, straight plays. (It's a play.) Obviously well-written, well-acted, and generally a quality production.

Don't see it if You're unprepared to be emotionally devastated or confronted with the sadness of aging ungracefully.