The Humans, in which a Pennsylvania family celebrates Thanksgiving at the youngest child’s crappy downtown New York apartment, isn’t your typical kitchen-sink drama. “I was going to write a pure thriller,” playwright Stephen Karam explains. “But the more I became attached to the characters, their underlying fears, and their existential horrors, I found myself writing a family play. I wanted to see if I could make something new by combining two very different genres — a hybrid that’s its own animal.”
The fearful family includes older daughter Aimee, a lesbian lawyer dealing with the pain of serious health issues and her recent split from a longtime girlfriend. “Like everything in all of my plays, it’s very personal without being autobiography,” admits Karam. “She’s around my age, I used to work in a law firm, and, like most humans, I have suffered heartbreak. But I’m a gay man, not a lesbian, which may shock you.”
Karam’s last two plays, Speech & Debate and Sons of the Prophet, also featured prominent gay characters. “I guess I’d say that’s intentional in both a quiet and a big way,” he says. “Being gay myself, writing about gay people is just a natural extension of who I am. On another level, it feels good to make my own truths visible via these characters.”
Helmed by Tony-winning gay director Joe Mantello, The Humans, which begins January 23 at the Helen Hayes Theatre, marks Karam’s Broadway debut; it transfers following an acclaimed off-Broadway run that ended earlier this month. Is he scared? “Mostly I’m just excited,” he says. “I’m trying to keep all the terror on stage.”
Next, January 2016.