I found out that The Drama Book Shop was having some hard times when I saw a clip on Facebook from a local news channel. The short story: a pipe burst destroying much of their ceiling and a whole lot of inventory. Lin-Manuel Miranda posted a video about it on Twitter and patrons rushed into the store to help by spending money. Their sales are up 50% and they’re hoping their insurance kicks in sooner rather than later.
I spent many days during my college years (and even before that while I was in high school) wandering the shelves looking for plays for classes and to read on my own. I used to buy a few dozen plays there every summer, coming back once I had finished reading all my prior purchases.
So, last Tuesday I wandered up 40th and 7th to pay homage to the store that was such a huge resource for me and I picked up a copy of Stephen Karam’s The Humans. I know I didn’t particularly fall head-over-heels in love with the show, but I think that’s because I probably missed a few subtleties.
I wished the manager good luck with everything, said goodbye to the manager’s dog that sits on the counter, and was on my way.
If you’re in New York City, or are planning a visit soon, please stop by The Drama Book Shop and show your support. You can find out more information here.
I’d heard that The Humans, written by Stephen Karam and currently at Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theatre off-Broadway, was fantastic and I knew it was transferring. Once Kristen reminded me that it wasn’t closing until January 3rd, I went to see last Wednesday’s matinee in a general rush ticket ($27) as the student rush was $50 (wtf?). The difference between the two seats was the student rush ticket was unobstructed while the general rush ticket was in the last row of the orchestra and thus the mezzanine overhang made it a little difficult to see the top floor of the set.
This play reminded me a bit of the movie Pieces of April as in a “Thanksgiving Gone Wrong” plot. Brigid (Sarah Steele) just moved in with her boyfriend Richard (Ariian Moayed) and Sarah’s family is coming to spend Thanksgiving with them in their unfurnished, barely-moved-into apartment. There were the usual witty lines of dialogue that inspired lots of laughter from the audience and it got serious and depressing in the last 1/3 of the script. Truths are revealed and Thanksgiving dinner is ended early.
Moayed mentions in the early part of the play that there’s a comic which takes place from the perspective of monsters and how all of their horror stories have humans as their monsters. Brigid’s mom (Jayne Houdyshell) and her sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) can hardly believe that would ever be the case as humans are basically not capable of such horror-inducing acts. By the end of the play, we know this isn’t true.
It felt like a horror/thriller movie towards the end when a couple of random items are knocked over and a door closed by itself. I’m not sure what Karam’s intentions were by adding those subtleties to the script. Their grandmother, “Momo” (Lauren Klein), is not well and basically catatonic throughout the entire play. I’d like to think the supernatural element of the script had something to do with her character, but honestly, I’m really not sure.
Overall I really enjoyed it. I don’t see this being very popular on Broadway, but it’ll be good exposure for Sarah Steele and Reed Birney (who played her father). The cast executed the layered script as best they could; there were no weak links. With no big names and being a not altogether feel-good script, I’m interested to see what this does when it transfers.