The Midcoast Actors’ Studio in Belfast again brings cutting-edge theater to Maine in its production of Stephen Karam’s “The Humans,” but director Erik Perkins fails to illuminate the cast’s humanity.
The winner of the 2016 Tony Award for best play, this play is the story of a family gathering at Thanksgiving in which old wounds are reopened, secrets are revealed and anxiety about the future is served up for dessert instead of pumpkin pie.
Erik (Bart Shattuck) and his wife, Diedre (Jeralyn Shattuck), drive from Scranton, Pennsylvania, to have dinner with their daughters, Aimee (Katie Glessner) and Brigid (Danielle Bannister) at the Manhattan apartment Brigid shares with her boyfriend, Richard (Rob Bywater). Erik’s mother, nicknamed Momo (Christine West), who suffers from dementia and uses a wheelchair, is also a guest.
The 90-minute one-act show is an amusing condemnation of the tarnished American Dream. Every character’s plans have been thwarted in one way or another, either by their own mistakes, failing health or the decision to settle for less than they’d hoped for. In the end, each seemed more a caricature than a fully realized human being.
During Sunday’s matinee at the Crosby School, Perkins and his cast worked hard to illuminate the frailty of the human condition, a central theme of Karam’s work. Yet, the cast failed to create a tight ensemble, something that has been a hallmark of the company’s previous productions, especially “The Crucible” and “Cabaret.”
While every actor gave equally fine performances something that afternoon just did not gel. Much of the humor fell flat, in part because the audience numbered about 25 people and laughter did not turn out to be contagious.