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Theatre Review: Red Herring’s Barbed, Beautiful Regional Premiere of ‘The Humans’

Richard Sanford Richard Sanford Theatre Review: Red Herring’s Barbed, Beautiful Regional Premiere of ‘The Humans’Jill Hartley (Aimee) and Becca Kravitz (Brigid) in Red Herring'sThe Humans - Photo by McKenzie Swinehart
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Red Herring Productions wrap up their run at the Franklinton Playhouse with an electrifying production of Stephen Karam’s Tony-winning family drama The Humans, directed by McKenzi Swinehart.

The Humans takes place in real-time as Brigid Blake (Becca Kravitz) and Richard Saad (Brian A. Palmer) host Brigid’s parents, Erik (Christopher Moore Griffin) and Deirdre (Nancy Skaggs), sister Aimee (Jill Ceneski), and grandmother Momo (Rachel Belenker), for the first Thanksgiving in their Chinatown apartment. 

The Humans wrestles with grief and coincidence, dissecting love – difficult, troubled, furious love – as the lifeblood of a family. Karam uses all of his power to find keen specifics within this well-trod material; the play makes situations we’ve seen countless times feel fresh and surprising. Swinehart and her uniformly excellent cast rise to the challenge of this unflinching material.

Every member of the family shores up their sense of self against a tidal wave of destruction, finding their own ways not to crumble. The production orbits around Griffin’s volcanic, devastating performance; establishing the troubled heart of Erik Blake with breathtaking subtlety and a tragic inevitability. Kravitz’s heartbreaking take on Brigid elevates the minutiae of the hard, necessary work of living and makes it sing. Ceneski’s Aimee and Skaggs’ Deirdre do a remarkable job of intricately echoing one another in surprising, delightful ways.

Swinehart treats what could be heavy, ponderous material with a light touch, letting her characters breathe and taking full advantage of Edith D. Wadkins’ jaw-dropping set. Love for these characters, even at their most broken, animates this The Humans, searing it into the audience’s brain. 

This is as good a production of one of the finest dramas of the last decade as you’re likely to find, and a fitting transition to Red Herring’s next chapter.

The Humans runs through November 17 with performances at 8:00 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. For tickets and more info, visit redherring.info.

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