FESTEN Closes at St. Ann's Warehouse Tonight, 4/29
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by BWW News Desk
For its final international theater production at 38 Water, St. Ann's Warehouse presents the U.S. premiere of TR Warszawa's Festen (The Celebration), one of the most acclaimed works by perhaps Poland's foremost company. Festen is a stage adaptation of The Celebration, the beloved prize-winning Danish Dogma 95 film (1998) by Thomas Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov, about the 60th birthday party of a family patriarch, at which a dark family secret is revealed. Written for the stage by Vinterberg and translated into Polish by the director, TR Artistic Director Grzegorz Jarzyna, Festen exposes the depths of a family dynamic passed on from generation to generation, a rich metaphor for the slow, inexorable workings of power, history, guilt and responsibility.
Festen revolves around the weekend-long gathering of a wealthy landowner's family. His youngest son, Christian, makes a dinner speech accusing the father of molesting him and his twin sister throughout childhood. (The sister has recently committed suicide, and her ghost haunts Christian and the other relatives.) The festivities turn into a nightmare of accusations and counter-accusations. Amidst the feast's finery, lies are exposed and the guests are suspended between doubt and indignation. But it is left to the closing scene to determine whether the accusations are the product of Christian's fevered imagination or an expression of literal truth.
St. Ann's Warehouse has been instrumental in introducing American audiences to TR Warszawa, a company that has reenergized theater in post-Communist Poland, and to Jarzyna, one of Europe's most acclaimed young directors. Jarzyna's adaptation of Macbeth (2008), for which St. Ann's constructed an outdoor theater with a dramatic two-story set and a four-chamber playing space, transformed Shakespeare's familiar classic into a cautionary tale with contemporary and cinematic images of warfare, beheadings, and religious fervor. Jarzyna used modern technology to transmit a layered soundscape through individual headphones, and to create live explosions and gunfire. In the equally film-influenced caper Risk Everything (2004), the action spilled out of St. Ann's Warehouse onto Water Street (once causing a startled undercover police officer to rush to the aid of an actor seemingly in danger).
Festen (The Celebration), grounded in yet another genre of film, is possessed of similarly high intensity and production values-though of completely different sorts. Of the many theatrical adaptations of The Celebration- including Dutch, Bulgarian, West End and Broadway productions-Jarzyna's is perhaps the most cinematic in its direction. His particular use of lighting, live music and some of Poland's greatest stage and film actors make the audience feel that we are watching the show from the varying perspectives of long, medium and close-up shots, not unlike a 3D film. The recurring presence of non-speaking grandchildren and a great grandmother create the sense of a crime perpetuated across generations, from past to present and future.
The resulting tension and violence are psychological and personal, rather than technological or physical. And while the playing space is intimate compared with Macbeth, the production is again elaborate: A cast of 21 actually consumes 20 boiled eggs, three roasted chickens, ten different types of blue cheese, five melons, three pineapples, seven liters of tomato soup, two liters of orange juice, two liters of Fanta, a bottle of non-carbonated sparkling wine and cigarettes, among many other things, at each banquet.
The cast includes Magdalena Cielecka, Ewa Da?kowska, Agnieszka Podsiadlik, Magdalena Kuta, Katarzyna Herman, Danuta Stenka-Grzelak, Danuta Szaflarska, Mariusz Benoit, Andrzej Chyra, Jan Dravnel, Carlos Ferreira, Wojciech Kalarus, Antonina Kalita, Aleksandra Pop?awska, Marek Kalita, Marek K?pi?ski, Redbad Klijnstra, Stanis?aw Spara?y?ski, Zygmunt Malanowicz, Henryk Jan Peszek, Cezary Kosinski and Konstanty Kosinski.
The production features lighting by Jacqueline Sobiszewski, set design by Ma?gorzata Szcz??niak, sound by Piotr Domi?ski, costumes by El?bieta Ko?tonowicz, makeup by Monika Fetela, and subtitles by Agnieszka Tuszy?ska and Justyna Konczewska. Pawe? Kulka serves as Assistant Director.
Performances of Festen (The Celebration) run through tonight, April 29 at St. Ann's Warehouse. The running time is two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission. St. Ann's Warehouse is located at 38 Water Street in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn.
Tickets, which are $35-$70, are available online at www.stannswarehouse.org and by phone at 718.254.8779 (Tuesday-Saturday, 1:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M.) or 866.811.4111 (extended hours Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M.-9:00 P.M.; Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M.). They can also be purchased at the St. Ann's Warehouse Box Office at 38 Water Street (Tuesday-Saturday, 1:00 P.M.-7:00 P.M.).