Fine & Performing Arts

Family secrets, intense fights in ‘Festen’

California Repertory Company opened its new season Friday at the Queen Mary with David Eldridge’s “Festen”—where the audience laughed and cried at the same time.
Eldridge based “Festen” on the film “The Celebration,” a Cannes Film Festival favorite.

Joanne Gordon, theater arts department chair at Cal State Long Beach and artistic director at Cal Rep, directed the play. “It is important we see the play as both a domestic and political drama,” Gordon said in a press release. “The theme of confronting the past is as valid for a single family as it is for our entire country. We all struggle to accept truths because ignoring them can be comfortable.”

The play tells the story of Christian who plans revenge against his father at his 60th birthday celebration in the presence of his entire family. The material is heavy because it consists of intense conflicts between family members and adult content.

The play opens with Christian (played by CSULB theater arts graduate student David Vegh) waving cheerily at his five-year-old niece who runs toward the house. The four adult children reunited at their parents’ house to celebrate their father’s birthday. The audience found it very amusing when the grandfather sang along with the little girl throughout the party scene.

Anyone could relate with this family because in spite of severe, sometimes physical, fights the family still tries to have a nice time at the party.

Anna Steers, who plays Helene, said rehearsals at the Queen Mary had “a grand, big and wonderful atmosphere, and [it’s] a great place to work and be creative because of the grand space.”

According to Steers, last year’s experience at The Amory, which was converted from a gymnasium into a theater, greatly differed from the Queen Mary. “They have a real stage and the whole rehearsal process has been so much fun,” Steers said. “There are new elements for the Cal Rep: a new play, a new theater … so I think the audience will be excited to attend the show there.”

“We thought that the uniqueness and creativity of Cal Rep and their show calendar would prove a valuable partner for The Queen Mary,” Erika Testo, the Queen Mary’s marketing manager, said. “We look forward to Cal Rep introducing new audiences to the ship, such as students.”

Gordon has taken a highly theatrical approach to this material, according to Vegh. “I think people from all walks of life should see this play, as it speaks to a basic human experience,” Vegh said. “I feel fortunate to be surrounded by a cast and team that is focused and committed to the work of trying to bring this rather challenging play to life.”

Cal Rep performances are in the Royal Theater. The production runs Tuesday through Saturday until Oct. 17 until Oct. 17. The play will not be showing tonight. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $16 for students, military, and seniors (55 and older). General parking is $8 and $6 for CSULB students and for patrons who have dinner aboard the ship. To purchase tickets or for more information call 562-985-5526 or visit 


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