A family sits at a table as an older woman reads a prayer
The Humans Credit: Zeke Dolezalek

Redtwist Theatre presents Stephen Karam’s celebrated family holiday drama to open its new season. It’s Thanksgiving 2015 on New York City’s Lower East Side and the Blake family has gathered at younger daughter Brigid’s rundown apartment to celebrate. As with virtually every family ever, each member nurses grudges, guards secrets, and leaves much of what they feel unsaid.

The nucleus around which this ordinary, troubled clan revolves is the wheelchair-using matriarch, Momo (Valerie Gorman). Deep into dementia, she spends the running time of the play nearly comatose, punctuated occasionally by outbursts of gibberish. Her one moment of clarity comes during the recitation of the pre-meal prayer. Her son, Erik (Brian Parry), is so moved, he makes everyone recite it a second time. But this family needs much more than Jesus.

The Humans
Through 11/14: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Redtwist Theatre, 1044 W. Bryn Mawr, 773-728-7529, redtwisttheatre.org, $35 Thu, $40 Fri-Sun ($5 off students/seniors).

Real conflicts about religion, marriage, health, and success are broached, though at the end of the meal nothing has even begun to be resolved. It is to Karam’s credit that this lack of release does not take away from the lived-in feel of the interactions between people who clearly love one another, but possess no tools to express it. (This comes through even though the cast wears face shields when not eating or drinking, which occasionally makes the dialogue hard to hear.)

The emotional high point of the piece (directed by Steve Scott) is the reading of a years-old e-mail from Momo to her granddaughters, an acknowledgement of her slipping mind. It is a farewell made more poignant by its writer’s simultaneous presence and absence. Even though Momo can no longer make sense, her descendants, gathered around her and of seemingly sound mind, are even more adrift and helpless than she is in her diminished state.