I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
Published September 16th 2018
A standout in the Old Fitz Season
Stephen Karam's brilliant one-act play, The Humans, has its Australian premiere at The Old Fitz Theatre and, oh boy, is this Tony Award-winning play worth making the trip to Woolloomooloo. Presented by Mophead Productions as part of Redline Productions' 2018 season, this production is easily the shining jewel in the Old Fitz's crown this year.
Ultra-realistic, totally relatable and relentlessly toeing the line between comedy and drama, The Humans is, well... very human. The play takes place in New York, at a family Thanksgiving dinner that breaks with Blake family traditions because it is held in a rundown Chinatown apartment belonging to Brigid and her boyfriend Richard, rather than at the family home in Pennsylvania. In attendance are Brigid's parents Erik and Deidre Blake, and their other daughter Aimee (who lives in Philadelphia). Erik's mother Momo also attends, although she's mostly unable to communicate these days due to her Alzheimer's Disease. As they sit down for dinner, the family 'niceties' gradually fall away and hidden secrets, fears and emotions are revealed.
The family of The Humans
Director Anthea Williams has done incredible work to bring this subtle and genuine play to life. The characters onstage are intimately close to the audience, and it truly feels as if we are flies on the wall at the family dinner watching the night unfold. Her direction is complemented by Jonathan Hindmarsh's set and costume design. His ultra-realistic, multi-storey NYC apartment in the small Old Fitz Theatre is perfection. Lighting design by Kelsey Lee is subtle and well-used and a sometimes eerie sound design by Clemmie Williams rounds out a strong overall production design.
The performances are top notch and I challenge anyone to find a better independent theatre performance than the one delivered by Eloise Snape as Aimee Blake. Snape never falters and gives us an impeccably natural and genuine performance as the colitis suffering lawyer from Philly. Madeleine Jones as Brigid is exceptional, too, and the interactions between the sisters are completely relatable and beautiful to watch. Diana McLean as Momo says little, but never waivers from her character and her truthful and painful performance of an elderly woman lost to Alzheimer's is extremely powerful. Di Adams gives us a beautiful, nuanced performance of Deidre Blake, and some of the most poignant moments of the play are her asides when we see her brave mom facade start to crumble.
Whilst the women of the play are exceptional and really raise the bar extremely high for independent theatre performances, the two men of the play seem to be left in their wake. Arky Michael, fresh from performing in another Old Fitz production, Permission to Spin, seems to be playing on another level to the ultra-realistic performances delivered by Snape and Jones. There's too many theatrics in his Erik Blake to really buy the performance which unfortunately takes away from the play's climax, but he manages to scrape by relatively unscathed throughout the group scenes. Reza Momenzada as Richard is, to be blunt, confusing. His Richard is so awkward, so theatrical, so overplayed, that it's hard to know whether this is a misguided choice or really poor acting. He seems to be acting in a different play to everyone else, so hopefully as the season continues he'll start to measure his performance a little better.
The ensemble work delivered by the cast of The Humans is second-to-none. In an intimate space, naturalism like this can be a challenge because every move, every facial expression can be seen, but this talented cast handles it with aplomb.
The Humans runs until 6th October. A production this good absolutely deserves a sell-out season so free up a night and get down to the Old Fitz for one of the best indie shows of the year.