October 25, 2015

A middle-class family seems to be spiraling toward perilous entropy in “The Humans,” the blisteringly funny, bruisingly sad and altogether wonderful play by Stephen Karam that opened on Sunday at the Laura Pels Theater, in a superlative Roundabout Theater Company production. Written with a fresh-feeling blend of documentarylike naturalism and theatrical daring, and directed with consummate skill by Joe Mantello, Mr. Karam’s comedy-drama depicts the way we live now with a precision and compassion unmatched by any play I’ve seen in recent years. By “we” I mean us non-one-percenters, most of whom are peering around anxiously at the uncertain future and the unsteady world, even as we fight through each day trying to keep optimism afloat in our hearts. The play turns on a staple of American drama: the family gathering. This can lead to canned laughter or trumped-up histrionics, but the Blakes, who assemble in Manhattan for Thanksgiving dinner, are drawn with such specificity and insight that we are instantly aware that we are in safe hands. (Mr. Karam’s “Sons of the Prophet,” seen on the same stage, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.)