Wednesday, April 24, 2024

The Humans is not just another family stage drama

Actor calls Stephen Karam’s award-winning play a mash-up of Three Billboards, iZombie, Leave it to Beaver, and All in the Family

Thanksgiving comes early this year, as the Arts Club Theatre Company presents Stephen Karam’s Tony Award-winning The Humans on the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage.

Winner for best play at the 2016 Tony Awards, The Humans is the story of the Blake family who descend on a rundown Lower Manhattan duplex for Thanksgiving dinner.  As darkness falls, and the holiday festivities begin to subside, the pressures weighing on the family members begin to reach a boiling point.

The Humans looks at what it’s like to be alive right now, our place in our families, and what happens to us as we get older. It’s an unblinking, elusive, challenge of a play,” says director, Amiel Gladstone.

While it may sound like many of the family stage dramas before it, according to veteran actor Nicola Lipman, who plays mother Dierdre, it is anything but.

“This play is like a mash-up of Three Billboards, iZombie, Leave it to Beaver, and All in the Family,” says Lipman. “What’s not to like.”

Nicola Lipman plays mother, Deirdre, in The Humans.
Nicola Lipman plays the mother, Deirdre, in The Humans.

Describing Deidre as a “coper”, Lipman says her perpetual optimism can also be her biggest downfall.

“[She] is optimistic in the face of just about anything, which is her greatest strength and weakness,” she says.

Playing opposite Lipman as the father, Eric, is another veteran Vancouver actor, Kevin McNulty. An Irish-Catholic who likes beer, football, and has worked as a janitor for 28-years, he is a typical all-American dad.

“If you took away Irish and Catholic, he probably represents at least 50 percent of men in the United States today,” says McNulty.

Of course, while playing a family onstage is completely different than being a family in real-life, Lipman says Karam has made the process easy.

“The story is so well told that the human-ness of the family is already in the words we speak,” she says. “The irritation, the secrets, the fun, the inter-family alliances that all families experience.”

McNulty points to the sheer amount of time the cast has spent together in creating a believable family dynamic.

Kevin McNulty plays father, Eric, in The Humans.
Kevin McNulty plays the father, Eric, in The Humans.

“When you spend eight hours a day, for four weeks, with five other actors telling this kind of a story, you naturally become a family,” he says. “We sing together. We laugh together. We share the same bathrooms.”

Lipman saw the move to the Stanley Theatre as an extension to the family they had created as actors.

“When we moved from the empty rehearsal hall to the actual set on the stage, which we had expected to be difficult to navigate, it turned out to be like another character familiar and strange,” she said. “Just like the rest of the family.”

Fully expecting audiences to relate to what the Blake family goes through in The Humans, McNulty sees what Karam has created as particularly compelling and relevant.

“[Audiences] shouldn’t miss it for the writing, the comedy, the emotion, the reality of life, the things they have in common with all the themes of this play,” he says. “Come see it. It’s a little bit of a ride.”

The Humans continues at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage on Granville Street until April 22. Visit for tickets and information.

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