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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 21, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 29
You can go (Fun) Home again
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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You can go (Fun) Home again

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

FUN HOME:
A FAMILY TRAGICOMIC
5TH AVENUE THEATRE
Through July 30


Fun Home is the Broadway hit musical that brings enlightenment and controversy wherever it plays. Based on the award-winning graphic novel by the same name, this groundbreaking musical now makes it to Seattle via The 5th Avenue Theatre. And it was worth the wait!

The story is called 'A Family Tragicomic' for a reason, and revolves around Alison in three different stages of her life. The younger Alison recalls growing up with her two younger brothers as her parents ran the family business, a funeral parlor in rural Pennsylvania. Her father Bruce also restores the once rundown home, slowly making it acceptable for registry by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. College Alison deals with going off to school, discovering that she is a lesbian and realizing that her father is also a closeted homosexual. She tries to bond her with her father, but Bruce is too standoffish to discuss their commonality, leaving Alison to discuss it with her disenchanted mother. Adult Alison is left trying to make sense of everything from her past; her family, her life, her coming out, her father's latent tendencies and finally having to deal with the darkest family secret yet revolving around her father's death.

Robert Petkoff plays Bruce, Alison's closeted father. His demeanor on stage fits the character perfectly and his voice is strong. The audience can see the tormented Bruce struggling with his two identities, and how he tries to be everything he is 'expected' to be for his family. He wants his family to be proud of him, while simultaneously sneaking out to go cruising or having a secreted affair with a local handyman. Susan Moniz plays Helen, Alison's mother. For most of the musical, Helen is a mousy character, until Alison's revelation about her own sexuality forces Helen to confront and reveal her feelings about her husband's secretive life. It is an excellent example of 'the mouse that roared' and its sound resonates loudly.

It is the [collective] 'Alisons' that make this show an unforgettable night of theatre. 'Small Alison' (played by Carly Gold on opening night) was excellent. Her temperament is much more advanced for a girl of her (assumed) age, and she practically carries the show. Small Alison is still in the adoration stages of her father, but even she is aware that something is not as it should be with him, as she takes the first steps of her own discovery. [Adult] Alison (played by Kate Shindle) is the narrator of the musical, both observing and struggling to understand her memories as she is trying to record them. Ms. Shindle has an incredible stage presence and voice. Her body language and expressions projects the feelings as she recollects her family life, tormented by both realizations and acceptance of more than just her self.

It is 'College' Alison (played by Abby Corrigan) who [un] intentionally steals the show. Ms. Corrigan gives an excellent performance as the college student coming out. She gives Alison an awkwardness that allows the audiences to easily identify with her inner struggles, regardless of their own sexual identities. We get to experience (and therefore relive our own) extreme geekiness of the first kiss, 'discovering' sex and becoming completely lost in the blissful revelations. Ms. Corrigan does this with as much finesse and expertise as she does when her character is trying to understand her parents and their own secretive lives, bringing a perfect balance of frustration and discovery.

Fun Home is incredible - there's no way to say anything else. It is easy to see why it won the Tony Award for Best Musical and was also a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Drama. There are many moments that resonate with audience members, and for a variety of reasons. Gay or straight, everyone remembers their 'discovery' of their first love and the first sexual encounter. Fun Home goes beyond that. We get to share younger Alison's recognition of her own sexuality, before knowing what sexuality is, as a pre-teen girl who first sees an 'old school Butch' and recognizes the unspoken bonding they share. We can recall, as LGBT people, standing outside a Gay Student Union doorway, trying to summon the courage of entering, and sharing the self-acceptance and liberation of that first sexual encounter. But Fun Home also explores a darker side of human nature. Bruce's secretive life and self-torment is subtly and beautifully addressed letting (I presume) other members of the audience know that they are not alone. This is a production not to be missed - even by those that are (gasp!) put-off by musicals.

The musical is based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel. First printed in 2006 the graphic novel took over seven years to write and illustrate (both by Bechdel). Eventually it would go on to spend two weeks on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and win the National Book Critics Circle Award among many various others.

Lisa Kron wrote the book and lyrics of the musical, with music written by Jeanine Tesori (Shrek, the Musical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Violet) and debuted on Broadway March 27, 2015. It ran for over 500 performances. The musical would go on to be nominated for 12 Tony Awards, winning 5 Tony Awards (including Best Musical, and Best Actor for Michael Cerveris playing 'Bruce'), and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

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You can go (Fun) Home again
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