Drama 'The Humans' by Stephen Karam will leap to Broadway

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Posted: Nov 24, 2015 3:49 PM
Drama 'The Humans' by Stephen Karam will leap to Broadway

NEW YORK (AP) — A highly regarded play about a fractious family's Thanksgiving get-together has something to really be thankful for this holiday season — it's going to Broadway.

Stephen Karam said Tuesday his dark comedy "The Humans" will jump from off-Broadway to Broadway's Helen Hayes Theatre, with performances beginning Jan. 23. It will mark his Broadway debut.

"I'd say it feels like a dream come true but it's actually a dream I didn't know I had. I was happy just trying to get the best version of the play out off-Broadway," Karam said by phone.

"To be totally honest, I thought I would have a Broadway debut in the distant, distant future, maybe in my 60s or 70s when somebody revived one of my off-Broadway plays with a star."

The cast, all of whom are in the current off-Broadway production at the Roundabout's Laura Pels Theatre, will make the leap: Cassie Beck, Reed Birney, Jayne Houdyshell, Lauren Klein, Arian Moayed and Sarah Steele. Scott Rudin and Barry Diller are producing. Tickets go on sale Dec. 11 and opening night is Feb. 18.

Up-and-coming writers earning such a Broadway transfer were much more common in decades past, but that trajectory is rare these days. "Young American playwrights tend to not get a shot at the real estate of Broadway. So I'm thrilled for him," said Joe Mantello, the Tony Award-winning director who helms "The Humans."

Karam was pleased simply to have the show up and running on a stage. "To see it come together — as cheesy as it sounds — that's really the reward. That feels like the prize, when you're able to make the thing that you've been dreaming of for the past four or five years."

Both Karam and Mantello credited Rudin, who saw the play during previews and made a commitment to take it to Broadway within 24 hours, not waiting to hear what official critics said. Mantello said the playwright is one to watch.

"It's undeniable, in my opinion, that this is a unique, compelling, essential voice for the American theater," said Mantello. "Stephen will go on to write many other great plays and I think it's time for people to jump onboard."

The play will be part of a one-two stage punch from the playwright in 2016: His adaptation of "The Cherry Orchard" by Anton Chekhov will start previews in September at the American Airlines Theatre.

Karam, a 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his drama "Sons of the Prophet," also wrote the plays "Speech and Debate" and "Dark Sisters." A graduate of Brown University, his screenplays of Chekhov's "The Seagull" and "Speech and Debate" are being made into films.

"I like creating the illusion that suddenly I've just done five things at once," he said, laughing. "What's funny is I've never had a film made before this year and two got green-lit and filmed at the same time. I'm not joking: The shoots overlapped for two weeks in the summer."

Ever humble, Karam, a product of the blue-collar Pennsylvania city of Scranton, said he won't be soaking in champagne to toast his success. "It's so very hard for me to enjoy expensive champagne because I'm thinking how much it costs," he said. "I think it will be awhile before I'm taking a champagne bath."

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Online: http://www.roundabouttheatre.org

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Follow Mark Kennedy at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/mark-kennedy