Pulitzer Prize Finalist Stephen Karam’s Broadway Playwriting Debut
Stephen Karam first caught the theatre world’s attention with his play Speech & Debate, which ran in 2007 in an Off-Broadway production by the Roundabout Theatre Company, as the inaugural production in their Roundabout Underground series to cultivate new writing. The company certainly held true on their promise of cultivation, as his works since then have proven. In 2011, Roundabout produced his play Sons of the Prophet also Off-Broadway, but as part of their regular season in the Laura Pels Theatre. While that play did not progress beyond Off-Broadway, it was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Furthermore, it boosted the career of its lead actor, Santino Fontana, who has since gone on to play such roles as the Prince in Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella on Broadway. The Humans marks the third full production of Stephen Karam’s writing by the Roundabout Theatre Company, also premiering Off-Broadway at the Laura Pels Theatre, in fall 2015. With a positive critical response, and a veteran Broadway director and cast, the decision was made to bring the show to Broadway. However, both of the Roundabout Broadway venues were already spoken for, so powerhouse producer Scott Rudin stepped in the shepherd the play to Broadway in the small-scale Helen Hayes Theatre.
Upon the play’s opening, Ben Brantley of The New York Times declared “The Humans” a Critic’s Pick, calling the play is “piercingly funny” and also “bruisingly sad.” Adam Feldman of Time Out New York was equally enamored with the production, remarking that even the small talk is momentous. Jesse Green from Vulture quoted the play’s stage directions in calling the play itself “effortlessly uncanny,” especially enjoying the choice to situate the action in a dilapidated duplex apartment. Jeremy Gerard of Deadline called it a smart decision to transfer the cast intact from the Off-Broadway run, as well as to choose a small scale Broadway house that allows the “remarkable power” to be sustained on Broadway. Just as gushingly, Robert Kahn of NBC New York called the play “eloquent” and “wholly relatable.” The director, Joe Mantello, is one of Broadway’s more experienced and in-demand helmers of late, with credits including An Act of God, Airline Highway, and The Last Ship, all within a year. The brilliant case includes Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Sarah Steele, Arian Moayed, Cassie Beck, and Lauren Klein.
Box Office Creeping Up After Opening
Although The Humans is not selling like hotcakes, the box office has been steadily improving since the adoring reviews hit the press. This past week, the week ending March 6, 2016, the show reached its highest weekly gross yet of $354,973, which represents 65.08% of its gross potential. With a top ticket price of $248.00, the average paid admission was $88.21, which is also the highest yet of the run. However, the average audience capacity of 87.3% this past week took a dip from the week before, which had an audience filled up to an average of 92.4% of its capacity. The play is currently scheduled for an open-ended run, which is relatively unusual for a straight play on Broadway. Sooner or later, at least one of the actors will probably have a conflict, but one or two could conceivably be replaced if the producers feel the show still has life in it. At this rate, the show will not probably run forever, but if it wins Best Play at the Tony Awards, it may be able to sustain through the end of the summer.