The Humans (play)

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The Humans
Written byStephen Karam
Fiona "Momo" Blake
Date premieredSeptember 30, 2015 (2015-09-30)
Place premieredRoundabout Theatre Company – Laura Pels Theatre
Original languageEnglish
SettingAn apartment in lower Manhattan
Official site

The Humans is a one-act play written by Stephen Karam. The play opened on Broadway in 2016 after an engagement Off-Broadway in 2015. The Humans was a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and won the 2016 Tony Award for Best Play.


At Thanksgiving, the Blake family gathers at the run-down Manhattan apartment in Chinatown of Brigid Blake and her boyfriend Richard. Brigid's parents, Erik Blake and Deirdre Blake, arrive from their home in Scranton, Pennsylvania, to have dinner with Brigid, Richard and Aimee, their other adult daughter. Brigid is a musician and Aimee is a lawyer living in Philadelphia. Aimee has recently broken up with her girlfriend and has developed an intestinal ailment. Also present is Erik's mother Fiona "Momo", who has Alzheimer's disease. The parents are unhappy that their daughters have left home and have abandoned their religion. The family members must deal with "aging, illness, and a changing economy".[1]


The play had its world premiere at the American Theater Company, Chicago, Illinois in November 2014, directed by PJ Paparelli. Chris Jones, in his review for the Chicago Tribune, wrote: "kind, warm, beautifully observed and deeply moving new play, a celebration of working-class familial imperfection and affection and a game-changing work for this gifted young playwright."[2]

The Humans opened Off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre on September 30, 2015 in previews, and officially on October 25, 2015 in a limited run produced by the Roundabout Theatre Company, with positive reviews, and ran until January 3, 2016.[3] It transferred to Broadway at the Helen Hayes Theatre, opening on February 18, 2016 and closing on July 24, 2016. The play then transferred to the Schoenfeld Theatre, re-opening on August 9, 2016. (The Helen Hayes had major renovations starting in August 2016.)[4][5] The play closed its Broadway engagement on January 15, 2017.[6]

Directed by Joe Mantello, the Off-Broadway cast featured Cassie Beck (Aimee), Reed Birney (Erik), Jayne Houdyshell (Deirdre), Lauren Klein (Fiona "Momo" Blake), Arian Moayed (Richard), and Sarah Steele (Brigid). While off-Broadway, the script won the 2016 Obie Awards for Karam's playwriting and Houdyshell's performance.[7] The Off-Broadway cast moved to Broadway.[8][9][10]

The Pittsburgh Public Theater staged The Humans from November 9 to December 10, 2017, directed by Pamela Berlin; it was admiringly reviewed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.[11] Artists Repertory Theatre, located in Portland, Oregon, staged it from November 19 to December 17.[12]

The play embarked on a limited US national tour, starting in November 2017 at the Seattle Repertory Theatre.[13] The tour cast featured Richard Thomas as Erik, Pamela Reed as Deirdre, Daisy Eagan as Brigid, Lauren Klein as Momo, Therese Plaehn as Aimee and Luis Vega as Richard.[14] The tour concluded on July 29, 2018 at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles.[15]

The play opened in London at the Hampstead Theatre in September 2018 and closed on October 13, 2018. The Broadway cast reprise their roles, as does the director Mantello.[16]

Off the Dock Players produced the play in Sandwich, NH. It opened on February 14, 2020 and closed on February 23. The production was directed by Nancy Blaine and starred Hank Offinger, Rebecca Cole, Ashley Bullard, Abe Garon, Marena Harris, and Lisa Thompson.[17]

Critical response[edit]

In his review of the Broadway production in The New York Times, Charles Isherwood called it the "finest new play of the Broadway season so far" and praised the cast, direction, and the set "... that perfectly captures the unsettled atmosphere the writing so deftly establishes."[18]

Jesse Green, reviewing the Broadway production for Vulture, wrote: "With its irrational layout and strange, sickening noises, the apartment, as the stage directions put it, is 'effortlessly uncanny,' as is the play itself ... It is still the most, well, human play I’ve ever seen about fear and disappointment and the attachments that transcend them."[19]

The Pulitzer Prize committee said of the play: "A profoundly affecting drama that sketches the psychological and emotional contours of an average American family."[20]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Off-Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Lucille Lortel Awards[21][22] Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play Reed Birney Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play Jayne Houdyshell Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Play Lauren Klein Nominated
Outstanding Scenic Design David Zinn Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design Justin Townsend Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Fitz Patton Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[23] [24] Outstanding Play Won
Drama Desk Special Award for Outstanding Ensemble Won
Director of a Play Joe Mantello Nominated
Lighting Design for a Play Justin Townsend Won
Sound Design in a Play Fitz Patton Won
Obie Awards[25] Playwriting Stephen Karam Won
Distinguished Performance by an Actress Jayne Houdyshell Won

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Tony Awards[26][27] Best Play Won
Best Featured Actor in a Play Reed Birney Won
Best Featured Actress in a Play Jayne Houdyshell Won
Best Scenic Design in a Play David Zinn Won
Best Lighting Design in a Play Justin Townsend Nominated
Best Direction of a Play Joe Mantello Nominated
Pulitzer Prize[20] Drama Nominated
Drama League Awards[28][29] Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play Won
Distinguished Performance Reed Birney Nominated
Jayne Houdyshell Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Awards[30][31]
Outstanding New Broadway Play Won
Outstanding Actor in a Play Reed Birney Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Play Jayne Houdyshell Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Play Joe Mantello Nominated
New York Drama Critics Circle[32][33] Best Play Won

Film adaptation[edit]

A film adaptation of the play written and directed by Karam began production in September 2019.


  1. ^ Sommer, Elyse (2 March 2016). "The Humans". A CurtainUp Review.
  2. ^ Jones, Chris (18 November 2014). "'The Humans' at American Theater Company". Chicago review. Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ "The Humans". Archived from the original on 25 November 2015. Retrieved 3 May 2016.
  4. ^ Hetrick, Adam; Clement, Olivia (23 June 2016). "The Humans will transfer to Broadway's Schoenfeld Theatre". Playbill.
  5. ^ Hetrick, Adam; Clement, Olivia (9 August 2016). "The Humans reopens at Broadway's Schoenfeld Theatre". Playbill.
  6. ^ Gans, Andrew (15 January 2017). "Tony-winning Humans ends Broadway run". Playbill.
  7. ^ "2016 Winners". Obie Awards.
  8. ^ Clement, Olivia (24 November 2015). "'The Humans' finds its Broadway home and sets dates". Playbill.
  9. ^ Clement, Olivia (3 January 2016). "Stephen Karam's family drama 'The Humans' readies for Broadway". Playbill.
  10. ^ Viagas, Robert (18 February 2016). "The verdict: See what the critics had to say about 'The Humans' on Broadway". Playbill. Archived from the original on 20 February 2016.
  11. ^ Rawson, Christopher (19 November 2017). "'The Humans' dishes out comedy with familial discord at Pittsburgh Public Theater". Stage review. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  12. ^ "2017/2018 season".
  13. ^ Paulson, Michael (1 December 2016). "Tony-winning play 'The Humans' will close on Broadway Jan. 15". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Gans, Andrew (24 October 2017). "Richard Thomas, Daisy Eagan, and more set for national tour of 'The Humans'". Playbill.
  15. ^ "'The Humans' national tour". Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  16. ^ Billington, Michael (7 September 2018). "'The Humans' review – family dinner turns to schlock in uneasy drama". The Guardian.
  17. ^ "'Off the Dock Players Brings 'The Humans' to the Lakes Region". The Laconia Daily Sun. 12 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Stephen Karam's The Humans opens on Broadway – all the Reviews!". Review Roundup. 18 February 2016.
  19. ^ Green, Jesse (18 February 2016). "The Humans and Old Hats, polar opposites of excellence". Theater Reviews. Vulture.
  20. ^ a b "Winners", accessed May 3, 2016
  21. ^ " The Humans Off-Broadway", accessed April 19, 2016
  22. ^ "2016 Lucille Lortel Award Nominations Announced", March 30, 2016
  23. ^ Viagas, Robert. "'She Loves Me' Leads Drama Desk Nominations", Playbill, April 28, 2016
  24. ^ Cox, Gordon. "2016 Drama Desk Awards: ‘Shuffle Along,’ ‘The Humans’ Come Out on Top (Full List)" Variety, June 5, 2016
  25. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Winners Announced for 61st Annual Obie Awards" Playbill, May 23, 2016
  26. ^ Viagas, Robert. "'Hamilton' Wins 11 Tony Awards; 'Humans 'Named Best Play" Playbill, June 12, 2016
  27. ^ "See Full List of 2016 Tony Award Nominations", Playbill, May 3, 2016
  28. ^ Gans, Andrew. "2016 Drama League Awards Nominations Announced" Playbill, April 20, 2016
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Winners of Drama League Awards Announced" Playbill, May 20, 2016
  30. ^ Viagas, Robert. "2016 Outer Critics Circle Nominees Announced", April 19, 2016
  31. ^ Viagas, Robert. "Bright Star and The Humans Win Top 2016 NY Outer Critics Circle Awards" Playbill, May 9, 2016
  32. ^ "'Shuffle Along' and 'The Humans' Win NY Drama Critics’ Circle Awards", Playbill, May 5, 2016
  33. ^ "2015–2016 Awards", accessed May 6, 2016

External links[edit]