“Dance more than I did, drink less than I did. Go to church. Be good to everyone you love. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”
I really wanted to like Stephen Karam’s new play The Humans. I was hoping on a second try, with the show now moved to Broadway, that I would get what major critics have seen, that I am missing. I made sure I took a nap and was well rested. Sadly, the play left me with the same feelings, as the first time and lost me at the same places. Thankfully my guest liked the play a whole lot better than I did and explained why I did not. You see, she understood what I would find so tedious, dull, monotonous, repetitive, unrelieved, unvaried, unimaginative and uneventful, in other words boring. Karam’s play deals with how Americans have coped with the tragedy after 9/11. On Thanksgiving where they should be grateful, they are not. There lives, flawed with human failings have eaten away at them, so that they treat this holiday as many of us do, as a feast to dig and claw at one another, until the ghosts that haunt us take over.
The play takes place at the apartment of Brigid (Sarah Steele) and her boyfriend Richard (Arian Moayed) who are hosting her lower middle class family from Scranton PA for Thanksgiving dinner. By the end all are depressed and “Human’s” stuck in a rut. Only Richard is allowed to be depressed as he has the money to support this emotion. Issues of retirement, health care, Alzheimer’s are at the brink here. Brigid’s father Erik Blake (Reed Birney) has been cheating on his wife for years and the consequences of his last one effect everyone. His wife Deidre (Jayne Houdyshell) eats as a way of coping as she stands by her man and her dementia ridden mother in law Momo (Lauren Klein.) Brigid’s sister Aimee (Cassie Beck) is failing as a lawyer due to health issues and her obsession with her ex-girlfriend. As for Brigid she is desperately trying to make it in New York with out talent, connections or money. Despite their flaws, year after year they will go on or will they?
The cast is superb, with each cast member holding their own. In Birney, we see a man whose flaws have not only ruined him, but those he cares about. He wears his shame on him like a badge of honor so entrenched in his own pain, he misses others. We know he will continue the cycle or kill himself. His weakness shines even in the dark. Houdyshell is the comedy in this tragedy. She will survive, but happiness will always evade her. The most touching moment is when Momo’s letter is read (the words at the top of this review) and we see the person she was before she was robbed of self. The tragedy is these people will not heed the advice.
Director Joe Mantello gets the most out of his cast and his staging is interesting, but I do not know if it is Mr. Karan or Mr. Mantello who keeps this a ghost story of sorts and makes it so confusing in the end. The set by David Zinn is a perfect derelict apartment that New Yorkers thrill to find because they can afford the rent and it is a duplex.
My problem with this play is we’ve seen it before in Death of a Salesman, only now we all are the salesman. I could continue to name the plays that this springs from, they are numerous. We learn nothing here, we move forward not a step and we linger in the shadows of Mr. Karam’s words. I need more than that. I need to feel for these characters and I do not.
What my friend said to me was “You have seen so much tragedy and have faced so much, that of course you would find this dull. This is everyday life and yours has never been everyday. You find ways to be grateful, to see the light, you don’t dwell in the tragedy, you move forward.”
Many laughed at the lines. I did not find them funny. Many an audience member stood, but there were also many who like me who stood like deer’s in headlights shaking our heads at why so many think this play is so brilliant.
The Humans: Helen Hayes Theatre, 240 W. 44th St.
Countdown to Christmas: For The Dancer and Theatre Lover Chita Rivera
2o days to go! Every year people panic to find the perfect gift. We at T2C have been collecting idea’s all year long to bring you the perfect gift guide at all price levels. When you’re at the end of your rope trying to find the perfect Christmas present this year, come to this guide for some great suggestions.
There are a lot of books out there this year but we highly recommend Chita: A Memoir , the critically-acclaimed book is written by the legendary Broadway icon Chita Rivera with arts journalist Patrick Pacheco. Chita takes fans behind-the-scenes of all her shows and cabaret acts, she shares candid stories of her many colleagues, friends, and lovers. She speaks with empathy and hindsight of her deep associations with complicated geniuses like Fosse and Robbins, as well as with the mega-talent Liza Minnelli, with whom she co-starred in The Rink. She openly discusses her affair with Sammy Davis, Jr. as well as her marriage to Tony Mordente and her subsequent off-the-radar relationships. Chita revisits the terrible car accident that threatened to end her career as a dancer forever. Center stage to Chita’s story are John Kander and Fred Ebb, the songwriters and dear friends indelibly tied to her career through some of her most enduring work: Chicago, The Rink, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Visit.
Chita’s love of performing began as a child in Washington, D.C., when her mother enrolled her in a local ballet school to channel her boundless energy. Still a teenager, she moved to New York to attend the School of American Ballet after an audition for George Balanchine himself and winning a scholarship. But Broadway beckoned, and by twenty she was appearing in the choruses of Golden Age shows like Guys and Dolls and Can-Can. In the latter, she received special encouragement from its star Gwen Verdon, forging a personal and professional friendship that would help shape her career. The groundbreaking West Side Story brought her into the orbit of Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Arthur Laurents, Hal Prince, and Stephen Sondheim. After Bye Bye Birdie further burnished her rising star, she reunited with Verdon and her then-husband Bob Fosse to work on the film version of Sweet Charity and the celebrated original Broadway production of Chicago.
Chita: A Memoir was published in English and Spanish and the English audio version of the Memoir was recorded by Chita. A Spanish audio version is also available.
“Chita Rivera blazed a trail where none existed so the rest of us could see a path forward. She has been part of some of the greatest musicals in the history of the form, from Anita in the trailblazing West Side Story through Claire Zachanassian in the underrated masterpiece The Visit, over 60 years later. She is a Puerto Rican Broadway icon and the original ‘triple threat.’ We’re so lucky to be alive in the same timeline as Chita Rivera.” — Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“A frank and fascinating memoir from one of the truly great artists of the American Theater. Lots of stories … Lots of insight … and quite a few caustic statements from Chita’s alter ego, Dolores. An illuminating history and a guaranteed pleasure!” — John Kander
Broadway legend and national treasure Chita Rivera, multi-Tony Award winner, Kennedy Center honoree, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom – has taken no prisoners on stage or screen for seven decades. From her trailblazing performance as the original Anita in West Side Story—for which she tapped her own Puerto Rican roots—to her haunting 2015 star turn in The Visit. Chita has proven to be much more than just a captivating dancer, singer, and actress beloved by audiences and casts alike. In her equally captivating and one-of-a-kind memoir, Written with Patrick Pacheco, the woman born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero shares an incomparable life, both on stage and behind the curtain.
By the way this Memoir has won a Gold Medal for “Best Autobiography – English” at the 2023 International Latino Book Awards. https://www.latinobookawards.org/
Click here to buy your copy.
Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Spamalot
Here is the amazing cast of Spamalot. Christopher Fitzgerald as Patsy, James Monroe Iglehart as King Arthur, Leslie Rodriguez Kritzer as The Lady of the Lake, Ethan Slater as The Historian/Prince Herbert, Jimmy Smagula as Sir Bedevere, Michael Urie as Sir Robin, Nik Walker as Sir Galahad and Taran Killam as Lancelot.
I was so inspired I drew the whole cast.
To read T2C’s review click here.
Ahead of the Broadway Opening of Lempicka The Longacre Theatre Is Showcasing Art Work By Tamara de Lempicka
The Longacre Theatre (220 W 48th St.), soon-to-be home of the sweeping new musical, Lempicka, is showcasing a curated selection of renowned artist Tamara de Lempicka’s most famous works. Eschewing traditional theatrical front-of-house advertising, the Longacre’s façade now boasts prints, creating a museum-quality exhibition right in the heart of Times Square. The musical opens on Broadway on April 14, 2024 at the same venue.
The Longacre’s outdoor exhibition includes works of Self Portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) (1929), Young Girl in Green (1927), Nu Adossé I (1925), The Red Tunic (1927), The Blue Scarf (1930), The Green Turban (1930), Portrait of Marjorie Ferry (1932), Portrait of Ira P. (1930), Portrait of Romana de la Salle (1928), and Adam and Eve (1932).
Starring Eden Espinosa and directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin, Lempicka features book, lyrics, and original concept by Carson Kreitzer, book and music by Matt Gould, and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.
Spanning decades of political and personal turmoil and told through a thrilling, pop-infused score, Lempicka boldly explores the contradictions of a world in crisis, a woman ahead of her era, and an artist whose time has finally come.
Young Girl in Green painted by Tamara de Lempicka (1927). Oil on plywood.