EXTEND THRU July 10th "Festen": Authentic Voice to Unspeakable Acts

Audio Podcast at ITUNES 
Narrated by Joshua Volkers



Steep Theatre Company, in association with Marla Rubin Productions Limited, presents


At 1115 W. Berwyn
Dramatization by David Eldridge
Based on the Dogme film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov,
and Bo hr. Hansen
Directed by Jonathan Berry
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8pm
Thru July 10th
Buy Tickets
Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission.

Reviewed by Katy Walsh 

The past crashes a birthday party. When a ghost and skeletons serve up secrets, the meal is hard for a family to swallow.  Steep Theatre presents the Midwest premiere of FESTEN.  Helge is turning 60!  He invites his children home to celebrate the momentous occasion.  There is going to be lobster bisque, a nice pudding and life altering angst.  Someone has brought an offering that can’t be returned. Within the letters of salutations, two letters confess horrific truths.  The initial dark revelation is not as shocking as the family’s response.  A home is haunted by a nightmarish monster.  How long can a family shut their eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist?  FESTEN gives an authentic voice to unspeakable acts. 

FESTEN was originally a film that won a Cannes Film Festival’s Jury Prize.  The Dogme film and play by Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov, and Bo hr. Hansen was dramatized by David Eldridge for a British premiere in 2004.  The family drama revolves around pretending away a childhood demon.  On the surface, the family dysfunction is recognizable.  As the layers peel away, the implicit nuances of each character is an in-depth study of survival.  Under the direction of Jonathan Berry, the collective and individual portrayals take on deeper meanings.  Berry masterfully uses noise and silence to build and detach family unity.  Spirited musical games boast an ignorant bliss by choice or denial.  Uncomfortable long pauses at the table provide an underlying awkwardness between dinner guests.  The disquieting is enhanced by effective silverware sounds by designer Christopher Kriz.  Berry paces the action tight.  He impressively utilizes every inch of the stage to feature the fairly large ensemble.  In a split scene, the three siblings are having three separate interactions on the same bed.  The illusion is perfectly understandable and poignant.

The three siblings lead the talented ensemble in engaging the audience.  Michael Salinas (Michael) is chip-on-the-shoulder mad.  Salinas abruptly explodes as a raging bully to carrying the luggage, packing the wrong shoes, and hearing disturbing news. He contrasts himself brilliantly with a non-emotional, authoritarian edict in the finale.  Kevin Stark (Christian) plays it understated and reserved. Stark is so refined that when he passively drops a bombshell, I’m not sure I heard it correctly.  Later, his exposure is a tragic heartbreaker.  Julia Siple (Helene) is amusingly Bohemian trying to channel her sister’s ghost.  Making a beyond the grave discovery, Siple reacts with emotional confusion that pulls the audience into the intrigue.  Norm Woodel (Helge) epitomizes patriarchal pride and arrogant justification.  The entire family and even the servants commit to dancing around the subject until a ghost stops the music completely.  Then the party is really over! All that is left is sobering reality.
FESTEN powerfully confronts a terrifying beast.  The scary part is not the accusation or the persecutor.  It’s the passive nonbelievers.  FESTEN is an eye-opener on the flaws of human nature.      








Leave a comment