Thursday, March 10, 2016

I saw "The Humans"

What I saw: The Humans, at the mildly decrepit Helen Hayes Theater, on the south side of W 44th Street, in NYC

What I wore: those black Fluevog boots with two buckles that I think of as my pirate boots, tights, plaid wool Boden skirt, light pink no-iron Brooks Brothers cotton blouse and favorite Barbie pink cashmere Boden crewneck sweater

What I did beforehand: ate turkey and black bean chili and read an article in Granta 
Who went with me: The Bacon Provider

How I got tickets: online, with a coupon for $10 off
Why I saw this show:  Because it got good reviews in the New York Times,  because The Bacon Provider would be in town, because I walk on W 44th and wondered. 

Where I sat: row F, in front of an extravagantly hipsterish guy with a boy's haircut (in chunks over his balding temples), clearly in his early 30s trying pretty hard to look 22 (but hoping you won't notice), wearing an Aztec-patterned blanket jacket, a green gingham shirt, purple v-neck, faded orange chinos and, yes, a bow tie. I nicknamed him, "Young John Hodgman." 

He pulled out his reviewer's notebook and pen just before the lights dimmed, at precisely 8:08 p.m. as he had predicted. He had a date with him, who he should have dropped off at the hospital because she had a gooey, productive cough that kicked in about 40 minutes into the show and I thought she might need an ambulance.

Things that were sad: play was sad, but not unhopeful
Things that were funny: phone business, New-York-basement-apartment business, almost everything the mother-character said, especially when she was trying to be inspiring 

Things that were not funny: the actors were upstaged by the incoherent granny in her wheelchair, and even the granny was upstaged by the verisimilitude of the sounds the apartment made

What it is: more family dysfunction in two stories (without intermission)

There is no intermission

Who should see it: theater-goers with strong immune systems and an appetite for family dysfunction, students of class warfare willing to have the battles of their expertise acknowledged but not re-fought

What I saw on the way home: When she rose to her feet, the white-blond date of Young John Hodgman steadied herself on the seats saying, "I feel like an old granny." I guess she meant her illness. She was wearing black cat-eye glasses frames that made her pale face even more so. I don't think Young John Hodgman heard her, though, because he was still scribbling in his notebook; he had stopped laughing about 30 minutes into the 95 minute show.

The Bacon Provider bolted ahead of me; he is not a fan of crowds. I was stuck behind a long line of shuffling theater patrons, rising into the aisle ahead of me, slipping their arms back into the sleeves of their wool jackets, checking for their purses and programs. He looked bewildered out on the sidewalk when I caught up to him.

I admitted on the walk home that I wasn't sure I liked it. He said, "You know I don't like depressing plays."

"But it wasn't that depressing. It was good," I pressed. "The acting, the writing. The apartment. The sister? I swear she was real. Someone I totally know. Everything about her. That wasn't even acting. And the mom? Those emails! I mean."

Even a few blocks of walking in New York drags a person on its gritty edge, because New York has no smooth side, but when the streets are quiet enough and the temperature is in that zone between too hot and too cold, it's almost like New York isn't the most terrible place in America, and on this night it was almost like that.  

I added, after another block, "I'm not sure what the point was, but I think I liked it anyway."

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