Last night, my husband and sister-in-law and I saw the Broadway play, “The Humans.” It is set around a Thanksgiving dinner and tells the story of an average family dealing with an aging parent and dementia, a broken relationship, chronic illness, weight issues, job loss, money troubles, and a painful, life altering secret. It also has moments of grace–the obvious love of the family members for each other, a near miss in getting caught in the 9/11 tragedy, and the fact that to a person, the characters have retained a sense of humor despite life’s troubles.
The theatre was packed and we even had a celebrity siting–the actress Nicole Kidman came in a few minutes after we did and was seated several rows ahead of us. As I looked around, it occurred to me that the very fact that we could afford to enjoy this play puts us in a very privileged position. A night’s entertainment on Broadway these days for three people is easily the cost of a car payment, a new dishwasher, or a medical co-pay for a family not unlike those profiled in the play. The same is true, these days, of a night out at a Major League baseball game–once a simple and affordable pleasure for even a working class family, it is no longer accessible to many.
This struck me in part because a couple of weeks ago, I got together with an old friend I hadn’t seen for many years, and she reminded me that when we both worked for state government back in Michigan 30 years ago, we once flew to New York for a weekend Broadway blitz–we saw four or five plays, both on and off Broadway. Such an undertaking now would give pause at a minimum, and probably be unaffordable for the average state worker.
The play itself contains a brief discussion, almost in passing, of the divide between the wealthy and the poor, and the degree to which greed has become a disease. This is not a political post, but despite my thorough enjoyment of the play, it also served as one more piece of evidence of how far we have strayed as a society.