Photo by Don Kellogg

Friday, March 31, 2006


Oh Boy - this one is a bolt of lightning! Ouch! If any of you reading this think that going to plays is all about music, laughter and an occasional teardrop - think again! Festen (the Danish word for Celebration) bites to the core. Some of you may have seen the movie version (named "Celebration" for it's USA release). I hear it is just as dark and bitter.

This is the tale of a rich (and twisted) family in Denmark. The father is turning 60 and the whole family returns to the family house (more like estate) for a dinner celebration. Right from the beginning you meet the characters - all dark - all seem to have something to hide, something "odd" about them, something brewing beneath the surface. You come to learn that one of the children committed suicide last year which makes the tension thicker. It is right from this point that you hear an eerie tone (like you'd hear in a horror movie) start to resonate. Additionally, the sounds of running water and the voice of a small child echo in the background. It's creepy!! (check out the website and you will hear it - http://www.festenonbroadway.com )

Juliana Margulies (ER), Jeremy Sisto (Six Feet Under - Billy Chenowith) are among the faces of the children. Speaking of Six Feet Under, it actually felt a bit like that show. (If you watch, you'd know what i mean). The mother is played by Ali MacGraw - her return to Broadway after many years.

Being a film/play made in the Danish Dogme style (i think i referred to that correctly) - the lighting was all white - no colors. The stage was stark (but that's just like those Danes - think Danish Modern Furniture!). It was all about the art, the story, and the message - not any Glitz and Glamour. That, essentially, is the Dogme Style of film/play making.

Well... If that's what they set out to do - they certainly succeeded. You come to learn at dinner that the father molested his son (and dead daughter). One of the other sons is nutz- of course most aptly played by Billy Chenowith...er... Jeremy Sisto... The mother knew about all this for years and shut it out - playing the ever silent matriarch of the family.

Act II degrades even further into the family swamp. Family members fighting family members, father trying to molest the young granddaughter, other son tries to kill father, mother sobs - and all the while they sing very eerie family songs (they all seem to know the words like they were raised singing them) and dance through the house drunk on the evening's wine.

The use concurrent use of space on the stage by 2 or 3 different sets of characters was amazing. Without having 5 or 6 rooms to play the scenes in, they often all used the same space rapidly alternating the dialogue and lighting all the while seeming to be alone in the space without interfering with the others. Not easy to block out - and not at all easy to perform. The effect only added to the eerie tension of the evening.

Tension, along with an eerie horror movie sound/tone permeated the theater from the minute they walked on stage, to the last word was uttered. I tell you - it was twisted! I hope there's a tall glass bourbon waiting for all of them every night they walk off stage! I know I certainly needed one!