Rufus Norris directs the David Eldridge adaptation of the movie, just as he did in London, where the show received critical acclaim. Bill Kenwright and Marla Rubin produce the Broadway production. The play began previews at the Music Box on March 23.
The New York staging features an American cast. Larry Bryggman, Michael Hayden, Ali MacGraw, Jeremy Sisto and Julianna Margulies are among the family members trapped at a clan gathering celebrating Papa's (Bryggman) 60th birthday. The bash is put asunder when son Christian (Hayden) proposes a truth-telling toast, leading to an onslaught of denial, grief and violence.
Festen is an adaptation of the 1998 movie directed and written by Thomas Vinterberg and is part of the Dogme 95 film movement. The movement was formed in 1995 in Denmark among a handful of directors. The filmmakers who follow its dicta—filming on location; the use of only hand-held, 35 mm cameras; the exemption of artificial lighting and sound effects; a here-and-now time frame—include Lars von Triers and Thomas Vinterberg. Vinterberg's 1998 "Festen" (also known as "Celebration"), upon which the play is based, is probably the most famous Dogme film.
Rubin, who spent many months convincing the Dogme leaders to grant her the rights to the property, has said that she wants this to be the first in a series of Dogme stage adaptations. Norris has gone on the record as saying that "Festen" was his favorite film even before he knew of the stage project.
Hayden plays the pivotal role of Christian. Bryggman is the patriarch of the family, and MacGraw is his wife. Magulies is their daughter and Sisto is another brother. The action remains set in Denmark. Also in the cast are Diane Davis as a former love of Christian's, Keith Davis as Margulies' boyfriend, David Patrick Kelly as an old family friend, Stephen Kunken as an uptight servant, Carrie Preston as Sisto's put-upon wife, John Carter as Bryggman's dad and C.J. Wilson as the cook.
Festen features a set design by Ian MacNeil, famous for his work on An Inspector Calls, costume design by Joan Wadge, lighting by Jean Kalman, original music by Orlando Gough and sound design by Paul Arditti.
The stage adaptation is by David Eldridge, whose play Under the Blue Sky was directed by Norris and won the Time Out Live Award 2001 for Best New Play. His other plays include Serving It Up, A Week with Tony, Summer Being and Falling.