The Humans


By Andrew McManus - Contributing columnist



As our teaser stated, the Portsmouth Little Theater kicked off their 71st season with The Humans on September 7th. It has run the 6th, 7th, and will continue the 13th and 14th. I’ll stop you right here. GO SEE IT. I was lucky enough to be in attendance last Saturday, September 7th. My mom Karen Casebolt and stepfather Clifton Casebolt went with me. I’ll be honest. I hadn’t been to Portsmouth Little Theater (PLT) before. I was missing out! Walking in I was reminded of the countless musicals/plays I’ve attended in various cities and in various settings. The theater is beautiful!

Let’s cut back to how The Humans came about. I spoke with Rachel Hoople (director of The Humans) about how this started. She told me, “The board decided to choose The Humans to open our 71st season because it is a beautifully written story, relatable story which received much acclaim and attention during it’s original production. We knew we would face the challenge of presenting a show most people in our area had yet to hear of, as it is a relatively new play, but we hoped with the right marketing we could pique enough interest that folks would give it a chance. We knew if we could get them in the seats, they would see what we had when we read the script.”

She is spot on. In attending this performance, the similarities screamed at me throughout the story being told. We are front row on a family enjoying Thanksgiving dinner. We all have stories of horrible holidays, the best memories, family traditions. We are able to be included with the Blake family this year. We have sickness, job loss, relationship loss, uncertainty, a new home, bad dreams. The list goes on. This is the hook for us as an audience. Being able to relate to this family, thinking of our own. This has us invested.

However this wouldn’t matter if the cast didn’t shine in their respective roles. Personally, my favorite cast member was the mother Deirdre Blake (played by Kelli Riffe) She was spot on with her performance of a mother who worries…worries WAY too much. Maybe because my Mom was beside me, and she kept hitting my leg every time both of us noticed something she did, but it was a nice addition to the story. I’m confident you’ll all see a family member up there on the stage in some aspect. I also must give a shout-out to the grandmother, Fiona “Momo” Blake (played by Kayla Parker) Her character is suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia and with my grandfather suffering from both she played it perfectly. Her lines weren’t many, and they were muffled, as a dementia sufferer usually is. But she added a heart, and element to the performance I wasn’t expecting. This isn’t a knock on anyone in the cast. Truly they all meshed well together and felt like a REAL family. That is the key. If as an audience, we don’t believe their laughter and their tears it doesn’t work. Thankfully PLT nailed it.

I then went on to ask Rachel if there were any struggles with production. She told me, “This is one of the most difficult scripts I have ever read when it comes to dialogue. As is usual for a close family, dialogue overlaps, often more than one conversation happening at a time. To get the blocking (movement on stage) and lines to become cohesive and understandable was a challenge. Luckily, our cast had immediate chemistry and were quick to pick up on the flow of the script. One of the most difficult hurdles, however, would have to be fitting a 2-story stage set on a stage of our size. Jim Humphrey (co-director) was very creative and successful in making it work.”

Lastly, she said, “This play is a bit experimental on our stage, but so far it has been very well received. My hope is that our community can see and participate in the growth of PLT as we continue to push the envelope and help cultivate a strong sense of culture within Portsmouth. Also, I hope that everyone will see the hard work and dedication that went into this play. I am proud of everyone involved; we have done a very difficult script justice within the humble walls of the Portsmouth Little Theater.”

The humble walls of Portsmouth Little Theater. This is the key to this story. We are lucky enough to have such an interesting and exciting take on family holidays right here in our town. You don’t need to take an overnight bus to NYC or a quick flight for the weekend to get your entertainment fix. Drive to PLT. Go see this performance. Enjoy the actors, enjoy the stage, and enjoy the dialogue. Most importantly enjoy it locally!

Starring:

Cody Leightenheimer: Eric Blake

Kelli Riffe: Deirdre Blake

Katie Reed: Aimee Blake

Molly Davis: Brigid Blake

Kayla Parker: Fiona “Momo” Blake

Nate Marcum : Richard Saad

Tickets available online and at the PLT Box office – September 13th and 14th 7:30 PM

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By Andrew McManus

Contributing columnist