The Gamm Theatre's third show of their 27th season is "Festen" by English playwright David Eldridge. He adapted it from the award-winning 1998 Danish film by the same title. This is the New England premiere of Festen at the Gamm Theatre. "Festen" satirises the hypocrisy of a large and wealthy family by observing the events that unfold at the ancestral home during a reunion held to celebrate the oldest family member's 60th birthday. As the time arrives for the birthday, speeches to be made to the party's subject, the eldest son, Christian,whose twin sister, Linda, recently committed suicide stands and asks the assembled guests to choose which of two prepared speeches he should read. The guests select one not knowing its contents, and the son declares it the "true speech". As he begins to talk and make the toast, he reveals a shocking family secret. Trapped for 24 hours within the walls of the lavish country estate, rocked by revelations that shatter the veneer of respectability, even the disbelieving guests are choosing sides as the truth painfully unfolds.The rest of the story traces the family's turbulent battle with the truth to discover whether the son's cold rage is justified or the product of a deranged imagination. Director Tony Estrella picks topnotch performers to play these roles and obtains stunning portrayals from them in this powerhouse show. "Festen" truly redefines tragedy for a modern age, making it the must see show of this winter season.
Tony keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with the revelations in this contemporary Danish tragedy. His expert direction wins them a standing ovation. The many twists and turns of the show are expertly handled and executed, eliciting many tears along the way. Tony recently played Hamlet so this show proves that he is greatly accomplished as both an actor and director. Black comedy is included in this show with the older generation's attempt to divert the audience away from the heavy drama with the singing of songs and tapping of glasses to announce a speech. These efforts become farcical at times eliciting laughter during some uncomfortable proceedings. The glorious set is by Michael McGarty and the beautiful costumes by David T. Howard. The excellent fight choreography is by Normand Beauregard with Stef Work stage managing this huge 14 member cast. Steven Kidd plays Christian, the agonized son who recently lost his twin sister to suicide. He commands the stage in this cat and mouse game. Steve delivers a gut wrenching portrayal as Christian. Will Lyman plays the father who appears calm, cool and collected but underneath has a simmering temper ready to explode at a moment's notice. He delivers a terrific well layered performance as Helge. Will is a Boston-based stage and screen actor and is also the narrator of PBS' "Frontline" series. Sandra Laub plays Else ,the mother while daughter, Helene is played Casey Seymour Kim with both of them trying to pretend things are normal. They do excellently in their roles as does Tom Oakes as the grandfather who utters non sequiturs as this addled man. Tom wins many laughs in this role. Casey who usually plays comic roles has a tear jerking, stunning revelation scene in the last act which she handles brilliantly as well as a terrific fighting scene with Alexander Platt. Sandra has an astounding scene near the end of the show, too.
Alexander Platt is mesmerizing as Michael, the other son who takes out his anger on his long suffering wife, Mette played by Karen Carpenter. I last reviewed the two of them in "Paul". His angry outbursts and swearing sequences are hilarious and well done. There is a turn in his character later in the show that is astounding to behold at the breakfast scene. Emeline Herreid plays their ethereal daughter who is caught in the maelstrom of activity during this birthday party There is topnotch work by one and all in this ensemble piece of theater. To reveal any more details would spoil it for the audience. So for a powerful show, be sure to catch "Festen" at Gamm Theatre. Run do not walk to the box office to see this magnificent performance.