On an otherwise pleasant Sunday afternoon at the Novato Theater, even though nothing about this script lifts one’s spirit, the house was listening to constant family bickering with rapt attention. Never-mind that “The Humans” won four (4) Tony Awards in 2016, including best play. There were few laughs and fewer still light moments that might have elicited more yawns and disappointment than entertainment because of the script about a less-than-sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner in a less-than-harmonious family atmosphere in a New York City tenement building. That said, we can take nothing away from the fine acting of the cast, as directed by Patrick Nims.
The attention grabber was the excellent character acting by Marilyn Hughes (Momo), whose depiction of a grandmother with advanced Alzheimer’s disease was powerful. The struggling husband/wife dynamic was palpable between Erik and Dierdre Blake (David Francis Perry and Laura J. Davies). The lesbian performance aptly established by Alicia Kraft as sister and attorney Aimee Blake. The mixed-race couple, Brigid Blake and Richard Saad, was naturally performed by Olivia Brown and Ron Chapman.
The set design was the highlight of the Production Team, by Scenic Designer Michael Walraven with solid carpentry by Mike Cole. On the one hand the sound effects were very good, particularly specifically of the overhead apartment noise, while, on the other, the microphone/projection was not, particularly from the female actors (by Sound Logic). The lighting design by Electric Bill Weinberg was appropriate, and the Properties Design (by Maureen Scheuenstuhl), Costume Consulting (by Janice Deneau), and Costume Design (by Mary Weinberg) were appropriate for a lower middle-class family in the 1970s.
Elle Simon on behalf of Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic with SFBACC
Performances of The Humans at NTC continue until September 29, 2019, on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30pm, with Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm. Contact the box office for tickets at 415-883-4498 or online at novatotheatercompany.org. The address of Novato Theater Company is 5420 Nave Dr., Novato 94949.
COMING UP NEXT AT NTC will be Sweeney Todd, from Preview Thursday on October 24, 2019, at 7:30pm, continuing on Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday Matinees through November 17, 2019.