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  Festen at Steep Theatre


Steep Theatre
1115 West Berwyn Avenue Chicago

In Festen, Helge’s family and friends have gathered to celebrate his 60th birthday. When the course of toasts, songs, and stories is interrupted by a stunning accusation, the celebration quickly devolves into a painfully raucous evening of revelations and reckonings.

Thru - Jul 10, 2011

Price: $20-$22

Show Type: Drama

Box Office: 866-811-4111

Running Time: 1hr, 30mins

  Festen Reviews
  • Highly Recommended
  • Recommended
  • Somewhat Recommended
  • Not Recommended

Chicago Tribune - Highly Recommended

"...But Eldridge's play doesn't just show us a family in crisis, it also reveals a little clutch of people who hang around, people who make their living from, or sexually desire, or hope to love, a member or two of this fraught family. All of those persons — most sycophantic, as such persons have to be — are played with remarkably complexity by the likes of Alex Gillmor, Peter Moore, James Allen and Marika Engelhardt. They're a chorus of enablers and they greatly deepen the stakes."
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Chris Jones

Chicago Sun Times - Highly Recommended

"...Every beat of the playing is gorgeously orchestrated here. Every character has his or her unforgettable moment in the spotlight. And every sick twist (and even sicker turn) comes with an emotional shock, even if it is more or less predictable. Berry references “Hamlet” in his program note, and indeed, “Festen” contains contemporary echoes of that play. But it also has its own distinctive pathology."
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Hedy Weiss

Chicago Reader - Highly Recommended

"...this semi-minimalist ensemble piece, directed by Jonathan Berry and based on a 1998 Dogme film, reminds us that theater's really all about the acting. Accusations made by Christian (a febrile Kevin Stark) at a "curious birthday party" held in honor of his father, Helge (Norm Woodel, terrifying in his cold-bloodedness), aren't particularly shocking--it's the reactions of family and friends that lay bare the repressed pattern of their lives. From-the-gut performances leave it all on the table."
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Kerry Reid

Time Out Chicago - Highly Recommended

"...The tight restrictions on the film’s setting and structure suit it well for stage adaptation (perhaps ironically, given that Dogme 95 was intended to strip cinema of artifice). Berry’s production for Steep makes the most of the intimate Edgewater space, throwing the audience into the midst of uncomfortable confrontations. Seething performances by Norm Woodel as Helge and Kevin Stark as Christian prevent the soap-operatic plot from ever seeming less than compellingly real."
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John Beer

Chicago Theatre Addict - Highly Recommended

"...In a way, Festen reminded me of Doubt, John Patrick Shanley’s Pultizer Prize-winning play. Christian’s brave decision to upset the apple cart by revealing necessary truths is not unlike Sister Aloysius’ dogmatic fight against the Catholic Church’s rigidly established structure in maintaining her belief that Father Flynn molested an alter boy. Whose story do we believe? However, unlike Doubt, the truth becomes crystal clear at Festen‘s satisfying, if startling, conclusion."
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Bob Bullen

ChicagoCritic - Highly Recommended

"...As the tension rises and the emotions erupt, the party devolves into a painfully raucous night of revelations as several family members struggle to reckon with the accusations. The play manically moves between celebration and pathos, from exploding repressed emotions to acknowledgment of long held secrets.  The acting, especially from Kevin Stark and Norm Woodel, is splendid making Fasten a riveting ensemble drama that builds into a powerful work. Steep Theatre, long a major player in Chicago’s storefront community, has another gripping theatrical work of art with Fasten. Director Berry’s terrific direction adds depth and nuance as he orchestrates the mood of the piece brilliantly. This play begs an audience- it’ll hit you hard."
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Tom Williams

Chicago Stage Standard - Highly Recommended

"...I have come to greatly admire the ambitious examination into the gritty human nature that Steep Theatre thrives upon.  Their productions are vastly expressive and always leave a taste of good theatre in your mind.  The Steep Theatre ensemble is bold and skilled; delivering those chilling stories with the upmost excellence.  Their latest product of insolence, “Festen”, is a remarkable look into the lives of a wealthy family whose thoughts are about to be tainted with the tragic image of a sexually abusive father.  The story is raw, and with the excellent ensemble Steep produces, “Festen” is handled extremely well."

Tyler Tidmore

Let's Play at ChicagoNow - Highly Recommended

"... 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."
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Katy Walsh

Around The Town Chicago - Recommended

"...Directed by Jonathan Berry in this very intimate space, we the audience truly become “the fly on the wall” as we watch the arrivals, the sexual prowess, the intimate feelings and the unveiling of past indiscretions as well as the destruction of the family itself. Let me tell you about Steep- a small storefront with a beautiful lobby area and once we enter the stage area, for this play which is done with audience members on two sides ( 56 total chairs-very comfy, with plenty of leg room) we see a hardwood floor with a large table and several chairs. The set (designed by Dan Stratton) is very simple, but since this is a play that requires our focus on the words and characters, it is only proper that nothing distract us from where our eyes and brains should be. What is unusual about the set, is that the table is converted to a bed for what appears to be three bedrooms with action taking place in all three bedrooms at the same time- great scenes that really do require intense focus as some of what transpires in this early scene comes back to be of great import later."
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Alan Bresloff

Chicago Theater Beat - Highly Recommended

"...Festen is a sophisticated journey of both the emotional and the psychological. It’s a rare piece of theatre that gives the audience a physical reaction to events. There is a moment in the final scene where Michael’s daughter sits on one of the character’s laps. She simply wants a storybook read to her. Due to common knowledge, everyone in the audience shared a knee-jerk reaction along with Gioppo as her mother. In the end, the audience has witnessed first-hand the revelations made and the life altering changes of these characters. I can only imagine what it must be like to see this play and have repressed similar horrific events that are referenced, and it’s very likely more than one seat will be filled with these individuals. While this is beyond heartbreaking, it is also doubtless that we all have hurtful occurrences big or small we’ve suppressed rather than forgotten or healed from. Festen shines a light on the courage of people who confront these battles, many within the private walls of their homes or minds."

Jason Rost

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