Thanks­giv­ing feast takes cen­ter stage in ‘The Hu­mans’

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Magazine - By Arthi Subra­ma­niam

Pitts­burgh Post-Gazette

It’s not just the six ac­tors who take cen­ter stage in “The Hu­mans.” There’s also the din­ner — an elab­o­rate Thanks­giv­ing spread with a whole turkey and all the trim­mings.

For al­most the en­tire length of the 1hour, 45-minute, one-act play pre­sented by Pitts­burgh Public The­ater at the O’Reilly The­ater Down­town, food shares the spot­light with the funny and poignant­lines de­liv­ered by the ac­tors.

Arash Mokhtar, who plays Richard Saad, scrapes, chops and ar­ranges car­rots for the cru­dite plat­ter, sets the ta­ble, un­wraps plas­tic glasses, bastes the turkey and then carves it, un­corks the bot­tle of “wine” and pops open the “champagne” be­fore the fam­ily sits down for the meal.

His girl­friend Brigid (Va­leri Mudek) and her sis­ter Aimee (Court­ney Balan) also help out in the kitchen by trans­fer­ring the sides and clear­ing the ta­ble at the end of din­ner. Their fa­ther Eric (J. Tucker Smith) has the job of down­ing the most amount of liq­uid — al­ter­nat­ing be­tween “beer,” “champagne” and wa­ter. And even his mother Momo (Ce­celia Rid­dett), who has de­men­tia, rouses from her near-slum­ber to have En­sure.

As the gravy and other foods are passed around the ta­ble, and be­tween squab­bles and laugh­ter, there are con­ver­sa­tions about su­per­foods, blue­ber­ries and blue­berry dough­nuts.

The hard­est part of it all, Mr. Mokhtar says, is to stay on top of the kitchen work and say the lines. “You can­not go too slow or fast. There is a cer­tain time frame within which the lines have to be de­liv­ered,” he says. “I have to cut, carve, pour and stay in the play; I can­not dis­con­nect.”

Prop­er­ties mas­ter Gay Kahko­nen con­curs with him. “Arash has to di­vide his at­ten­tion be­tween what he is say­ing, what ev­ery­body else is say­ing and what he’s do­ing. As he stirs the pot, he has to con­nect with a sen­tence in the script,” she says. “It’s tricky.”

That’s not the only tricky is­sue; ev­ery­thing needs to be be­liev­able. O’Reilly The­ater seats 625 and with the stage be­ing only a few feet from the au­di­ence, at­ten­tion needs to be given to the small­est de­tails. Not only does Mr. Mokhtar need to de­liver his lines on time but also he can­not ran­domly slice the car­rots or shred the bird to un­rec­og­niz­able pieces. The kitchen has both a work­ing stove (to keep the gravy and other sides warm) and re­frig­er­a­tor (to store ice in the freezer).

Even the bub­blegum pink Pep­per­mint Pig that is passed around the ta­ble to be smashed and eaten is the real deal. PPT got the pigs from Saratoga, N.Y., the place where the hard-candy con­fec­tion is made. They also are be­ing sold in the lobby (small, $8; medium, $17; and large, $21).

A con­coc­tion of blue­berry juice and herbal tea is the “wine,” and “champagne” is a car­bon­ated non­al­co­holic cider. The beer? “Well, it’s very bor­ing. It’s plain wa­ter in the beer glass bot­tle,” Ms. Kahko­nen says.

The ac­tors never get around to eat­ing the vanilla cup­cakes, choco­late crois­sants and the rugelach, and that’s a good thing be­cause prop­er­ties co­or­di­na­tor, Kelly Yann, cre­ated them with foam, tis­sue pa­per and felt. It has helped to keep the bud­get down. The cost of ca­ter­ing for the re­hearsals and 38 shows is 50 per­cent of the props’ bud­get, Ms. Kahko­nen says.

Al­though the bev­er­ages and desserts are fake, the turkey is not. A cooked 10-pound turkey is de­liv­ered in

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.