I have to confess that I was a little reluctant to venture out to the Factory Theatre today – not because I didn’t want to see Humans Anonymous but because I didn’t get to bed till after 4:00 this morning and the temperature was -12 C (without the wind chill). However, it would have been a huge shame if I had missed Humans Anonymous because it’s now my favourite Kate Hewlett play. Considering the number of people who turned out, I’m guessing the play’s reputation precedes it. As Humans Anonymous was the 2006 Best of the Fringe winner and has been receiving positive reviews, I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising.
As in the case of The Swearing Jar, this play combines comedy with dramatic insight into the human condition. Ellen (Michelle Giroux) is a workaholic who is afraid of being hurt again by love but fears being alone even more. Peter (Philip Graeme) has issues with his father and doesn’t want to lose his hold on happiness. Jenny (Mayko Nguyen) is highly intelligent and, yet, she still has a lot to learn about the ways of the world. Arden (Gregory Priest) has a phobia of just about everything under the sun, while Gemma (Kate Hewlett) seems to be turning into a crazy cat lady before her time. Each of these characters are carefully constructed and it’s impossible not be drawn in by their various quirks and foibles. While the characters in The Swearing Jar are extremely engaging, I find it easier to relate to the characters from Humans Anonymous as I share at least a few idiosyncrasies with all of them. In fact, I almost found myself nodding as well as laughing at certain lines.
Kate Hewlett truly has a gift for comedic writing. Some of her lines are absolute gems that had the audience howling with laughter. Arden’s entrance probably earned the biggest laugh. As the lights went down and the cast sat on the stage in silence, I wondered if someone had missed their cue or if there was a technical glitch. Then a man suddenly erupted from the audience saying, “Oh, crap! It’s my turn!” After climbing to the stage, he nervously fumbles his way through his monologue before Ellen appears and interrupts him.
Although Humans Anonymous is primarily a comedy of errors, it has much to say about our own mortality. The characters’ vulnerabilities are laid bare as they each reveal their list of fears. We learn that the character who seems strongest is, in fact, the person who is most fragile. While it’s hardly a manual on life, Humans Anonymous does offer some uncanny reflection on what it means to be human.
Humans Anonymous is playing at the Factory Theatre until January 18th. Visit the Fringe Festival website for a schedule of the remaining dates. You can also learn more information about the play from Kate Hewlett’s blog .