Theater Review: The Celebration

The in-your-face play is about incest, its consequences, and the screaming silence that envelopes the actors.

Beresheet theater 88  22 (photo credit: )
Beresheet theater 88 22
(photo credit: )
The Celebration By Thomas Vinterburg, Mogens Rukov, Bo Hr. Hansen English stage version by David Eldridge Translated by Shlomi Moskowitz Directed by Hanan Snir Cameri/Habimah Theaters February 6 Terrible: causing terror, awful, dreadful, formidable; (colloq.) great or bad. The Celebration, a shattering, compassionate, and risk-taking production, embodies and eclipses all of these Oxford dictionary definitions. The in-your-face play is about incest (a father who rapes his twins), its consequences, and the screaming silence that envelopes the acts and the actors. It all unfolds one night at genial patriarch Helge's (Oded Teomi) 60th birthday party, where all the family is gathered variously about a long refectory table that recalls Da Vinci's The Last Supper. It is indeed the last supper of silence because the recent suicide of his twin sister spurs Christian (Itay Tiran) to reveal Helge's monstrous secret between the soup and the main course, come what may. The Celebration, "Festen" in Danish, "Hahagiga" in Hebrew, began as a multi-award winning Danish film. The stage version ran in London for a year, but failed on Broadway. The problem in this production lies in the transfer of the story from film to stage, which exposes flaws in the script. To be polite, it is melodramatic with a cringe-inducing and saccharine final scene. The characters are placards, case-history illustrations, who invite pity rather than empathy. Paradoxically, it's Celebration's lack of ambiguity that allows Snir and his team to take the risks they do, because the strength of this production lies in what the actors omit. The pain builds like a boil, and when it explodes there is no real catharsis, only exhaustion. Teomi's Helge is an avuncular, self-absorbed, amoral monster. Christian needs bedrock courage to confront his father, and Tiran lets us watch as he fights his way toward it, and toward the light. Hugo Yarden as the half-senile grandfather injects desperately needed lightness, as does Dov Reiser playing the sardonic, disengaged Poul. According to recent statistics, incest apparently occurs in one of every six families. There will inevitably be some of the victims and some of the monsters in every audience.