“Festen, ” Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s 1998 film, captured a family’s pain and denial; David Eldridge’s translation manages to keep those emotions in the forefront in Steep Theatre’s latest.
Christian (Kevin Stark) comes home for his father’s (Norm Woodel) birthday, joining his indifferent mother (Melissa Riemer), hot-tempered brother (Michael Salinas) and free-spirited sister (Julia Siple). Grieving over the suicide of his twin sister, Christian reveals family secrets during the festivities. But his biggest obstacle isn’t his dark past, but his family’s surreal refusal to acknowledge it.
Jonathan Berry’s staging lends multiple dimensions to Dan Stratton’s open, utilitarian set. Stark is endlessly watchable; he seems literally weighed down by his character’s burden. Salinas’ spoiled, self-centered emotionality is a bit too hair-trigger initially; the script fails to establish his consuming desire to stop his brother and please daddy. But the chilling reveal is Woodel’s nefarious father, whose brutish entitlement makes his children his possessions. (Lisa Buscani)
Steep Theatre Company, 1115 West Berwyn, (866)811-4111. Through July 10.